My Adventures with Don Quixote: Part Two
This past weekend I finished reading the first half of Don Quixote, the entirety, that is, of Cervantes’ 1605 novel. As noted in Part One of “My Adventures with Don Quixote”, the second half of what now constitutes the whole of the extended novel was published as a sequel in 1615.
When I set out to write Part One I’d only read the first twelve chapters, but having known beforehand the gist of the knight errant’s story, hooks upon which to string a narrative lay everywhere about my person. However, as I suspected even in the wrapping up of that essay, I find now that while Don Quixote has been enjoyable, the aforementioned classroom bustling with excitable children eager to tell their own tales has, by and large, been emptied out. And I stand, perhaps like their teacher, in that lonely span of time during which the realism of the afternoon has yet to be transformed, as if by enchantment, into the evening during which fires flicker, shadows elongate, and our imaginations soar.
But this teacher has learned to trust that thoughts and the words to carry them shall come, if not when beckoned, when they’re gently welcomed without any expectation that they shall in some way perform a role which you might deign to direct. Rather, again like children, let them see you mean no harm, respect them as integral beings in their own right, and their natural goodness and gaiety shall flow forth as naturally as springtime waters burbling over smooth-rocked stream beds.
With regard to the story spun thus far by Cervantes, I must say that while I was beginning to wonder just how much farce I might have to endure — my limit for such Punch and Judy exploits so soon reached as to scarcely exist — the former man of arms, Algiers-held slave, and impoverished and imprisoned writer rides to the rescue with what are now referred to as his interpolated novels within the wider novel. Ironically, these tales within a tale are filled with the sort of wholly unbelievable charades, romances and serendipitous coincidences which Cervantes purports to rail against. And, yet, they stand on their own accord and, for me, help to prop up Quixote’s adventures of which I and I suspect others would soon tire.
This suspicion is strengthened in that it seems everyone worldwide and of all ages since the dawning of Cervantes’ much-heralded Modern Age knows the story of The Knight of the Sorrowful Face’s riding full tilt against the windmills of La Mancha, a story which occurs almost as soon as Quixote and Sancho Panza sally forth. Much as most know of the Iliad that the Trojan War was fought in honor of Helen and that Achilles was its demigod hero, or that One Thousand and One Nights is narrated by the beautiful Scheherazade who must weave a nightly tale so as to stay alive — but oft little more. In other words, one suspects that a great many folk embark upon such heady adventures but have hardly begun to sail from the harbor when they almost instinctively jump overboard (like Zoraida’s father in hearing his daughter had forsaken her own religion for that of his captors) and flail their way to shore, still clenching the sopping wet story line which they’d only just begun to take onboard when the impetuous thought struck to save themselves the trouble.
This seems the case with Don Quixote even in Spain, where apart from one student — an English and social studies teacher who along with his wife, an expert in the roots of the Castilian language, return to the book again and again to reread certain passages and end up laughing out loud together, so well do they know the book — the majority of my (almost exclusively adult and highly educated) students seem to know little more than the basic premise of the story, the characters-cum-caricatures Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, and two or three of the most famous of episodes, including, of course, the tilting with windmills. In fact, in asking if they’ve read the book, most can’t give a definitive answer, the memory being a hazy one at best, a process largely obscured by time and a lack of interested engagement when they were required to read at least some of the novel at around sixteen years of age. Nor do most know the book was published as two separate novels, ten years apart, with a counterfeit second novel appearing a year before Cervantes published his sequel.
But such is the loss of so much of our shared culture in this dummied-down postmodern age, in which education itself is but a caricature of what it once was, when many a person schooled to the age of fourteen or fifteen a few generations back was better educated than a PhD is today — the former having read widely and deeply, and studied the classical foundations of their own and other languages, whereas the latter is largely the cookie-cutter product of an examination-centric (anti-)education system, with pretensions of possessing expertise in the tiniest sliver of human endeavor, with much of their learning set upon a phony foundation and composed of false notions in service to the powers that be.
(To wit, the study of economics, political science, history, psychology and the social sciences generally, not to mention many of the precepts of the material sciences, such as the nowhere demonstrated link proving that any species at any time evolved from another, as axiomatic a foundation to build a science on as was the religious insistence that the Earth was flat, or Freud’s building his Oedipus complex upon a misunderstood or willfully misinterpreted Greek myth.)
And we wonder, time and again, how was it that so many wrote so well so long ago — including Cervantes, of whom there seems no proof he ever entered a university. Yet evidence of his classical, historical and then-present-day knowledge — as well as a keen awareness of human nature and society — is strewn throughout Don Quixote, not to mention his many other works.
At any rate, while the first interpolated novel breathed new life into Cervantes’ magnum opus, it is the second such interpolated novel which buoys up the rest of the 1605 novel, in which we learn of Cervantes’ own life adventures, if through an admixture of fact and fiction, as well as the story of Zoraida, based upon an historical figure who, in fact, was married to the sultan of Morocco rather than having been rescued from her enviable plight as a Moorish princess by a just-freed Spanish slave in Algiers as a means to openly embrace her Mary worship in a Christian land.
Already in the first half of Don Quixote we witness many of the literary devices for which Cervantes is known; for example, the use of farce as a deadly weapon against the social predilections of his day, his writing of the everyday things of his characters’ lives (e.g., eating, drinking, urinating, defecating) — it is largely this which seems to inspire postmodern literary and social critics to perpetually parade Cervantes’ greatness, the minutiae of daily existence in literary form being prima facie evidence of man humankind’s progress — and Cervantes’ technique of having a nearly omniscient narrator tell Don Quixote’s “history”, a modern one at that, originally recorded in Arabic by the fictional Cide Hamete Benengeli, whom in the 1615 novel Sancho calls Cide Hamete Berenjena (the surname is Spanish for eggplant, noted by the translator Edith Grossman as “a favorite food of Spanish Moors and Jews”).
Here, in Chapter 9, we get the narrator’s take on the discipline of history, generally, and the specifics as it concerns the telling of Quixote’s story:
If any objection can be raised regarding the truth of this [history], it can only be that its author was Arabic, since the people of that nation are very prone to telling falsehoods, but because they are such great enemies of ours, it can be assumed that [Benengeli/Berenjena] has given us too little rather than too much. So it appears to me, for when he could and should have wielded his pen to praise the virtues of so good a knight, it seems he intentionally passes over them in silence; this is something badly done and poorly thought out, since historians must and ought to be exact, truthful, and absolutely free of passions, for neither interest, fear, rancor, nor affection should make them deviate from the path of the truth, whose mother is history, the rival of time, repository of great deeds, witness to the past, example and adviser to the present, and forewarning to the future. In this account I know there will be found everything that could be rightly desired in the most pleasant history, and if something of value is missing from it, in my opinion the fault lies with the dog who was its author rather than with any defect in its subject.
While, in fact, our “historian” is Cervantes, whose tongue is well in cheek, you can see for yourself just how long and deep runs the (formerly, and in name, at least) Judeo-Christian West’s hatred of all things Arab or Muslim. But not even Cervantes, with his renowned satiric wit, could have foreseen how ironic would be his insistence that it’s the Arabs who falsify history.
I can’t begin to speak on behalf of present-day Arabs or Muslims, but it would be hard to imagine their blood not boiling in response to reading Cervantes’ above passage, for not even an Inquisition-scaled onslaught of hate mongering and blood letting can hold a candle to the irony suggested by Cervantes four hundred years ago which, in truth, is the exact opposite today, with the supposedly Judeo-Christian West not only falsifying history with every stroke of the pen but absolutely obliterating any semblance of a truthful existence (read, again, the New York Times quote at the end of Part One).
This strategically seeded hatred of all things Arab or Muslim is very much intact here in Spain today, as elsewhere given the global media’s control over our every collective thought. The historical animosity of Cervantes’ time is, today, continually fomented to divide and conquer from within and as a means to scapegoat everything from the general degradation of Spanish society to la crisis (económica) — both of which are, in fact, the deliberate creations of the globalist banksters who own the media and pull the strings of the puppet politicians who purportedly lead “our” pseudo-democracies, worldwide. And, of course, these and countless other straw-man crises are in constant service to the wholly cooked up “War on Terror” — as phony an historical narrative as Santa Claus’s reindeer-led benevolence, or God’s anointing the Jews as His chosen people — without which the rolling out of a global police state (as with fraudulent fiat currency schemes and genocidal “defensive” wars), in service to the same banksters, would be a decidedly tougher sell to the 99 percent of human beings who are perpetually in their crosshairs.
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Sean M. Madden is a writer-educator, photographer and slow traveler. A digital nomad, he’s also co-founder of Creative Thunder, helping creative individuals and small businesses to fire up their online presence and prowess. To get a free copy of the inspiring Creative Thunder Manifesto, click here.