It was a disappointment from beginning to end.
I couldn't understand why people thought it was so great. It didn't feel like an epic. Maybe for its time it was fun to read, but you really have to be deprived of all stimuli to enjoy it (unless you're a literature professor who has to read it). Like maybe stay in a prison cell for a few months. Then yea, it's a pretty fun read.
It's certainly interesting as a cultural artifact. If you wanted to buy a book explaining the Don Quixote craze, how it introduced parody characters to the mainstream, that would be an interesting book.
And I have nothing against Miguel de Cervantes. My gripe is with the people who recommend this book because it was required reading for their literature major, next to Moby Dick and Shakespeare.
Part of me thinks it's so celebrated because it's such a big book. It's like some kind of weird d*ck measuring contest if you want to seem cultured and learned.
It felt like one literal crazy dude going on disappointing adventures and then (spoilers) it just ends with him dying, having regretting everything he did, which in my mind, sums up the book pretty well.
It wasn't 100% bad. There are moments where it's redeeming, but it doesn't live up to the hype; it doesn't even live up to being average.
I strongly recommend people with a sense of taste do anything else with their life. Like if you're not part of the literature cognoscenti and don't mundanely read something just because it's assigned to you, skip this book.
You can literally do anything else and it would be more interesting. Watch paint dry and snails race. You can use Don Quixote as a door stop.
Ah yes, and Moby Dick is just about a man who really hates a whale and wants to kill it.
I never know how to respond to reviews like these. If you actually think that sums up the book pretty well then the problem isn't with Don Quixote...
And I'm definitely not a literature major.
I think it's an apt comparison. If you want a happy ending, you probably shouldn't be reading these books.
The need for a happy ending is a traditionally American taste. So much so that they changed the ending of Clockwork Orange, and other imported novels.
Headspace is important. 50% of all communication is on the receiver after all, so if you are reading a story that is 100% the greatest book of all time but you can barely attention to it you're only gonna get a fraction out of what the book has to offer.
My problem is with artificial, curated reading lists, rather than something organic that arises out of interest.
This reads like a non-sequitur. OP pointed out that your summary of Don Quixote clearly shows you failed to understand the book at all, thus you're criticizing it out of ignorance. Hence the comparison of your summary with claiming that Moby Dick is a story of a guy who hates whales.
Of course critique is largely subjective, so you're free to have a very different experience of the work.
My favourite book is the Count of Monte Cristo, but I couldn't finish the Three Musketeers, to give another example. Same author, same era, but one grabbed me and the other didn't.
Much of the genius of Don Quixote is the satirical take on Chivalric Romances that were popular at the time. He uses tropes from those stories, mocks them, and expands the scope of the narrative. Of course, this and the political context aren’t particularly present to the modern reader. Even though the book is pioneering and inventive, so were early computers that filled rooms; yet, outside of their novelty and significance, they would bore anyone with a smartphone.
I'm not sure you were aware when you wrote that that smartphones are a consumer good which are mindlessly held by people who don't think too much of it, whereas nowadays the only people interested in those computers that filled rooms are those who develop and nurture a deep understanding for the art, understand the technical limitations and challenges, and value them for the technical tour de force their are.
In the past there were people who also valued and devoured penny dreadfuls like crazy. I'm sure penny dreadfuls were the smartphones of their time.
I guess if you don't get it, you don't get it. Maybe you had an old translation? Hmm no, I wasn't just pretending to enjoy it! I'm not sure why you read the whole thing if you didn't enjoy any of it?! That's a bit weird.
(Not a literature major! I almost never read fiction, but I had a "great novels" period in my early 20s when I read some famous classics - Quixote, Jane Eyre, Mill on the Floss, Great Expectations etc, and really loved them all. Well ok, I was into Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge etc for a while too before that.)
For my own enjoyment I have however seen that the translation that I use is really important. I'm reading it in German, and the new translation by Susanne Lange is much more pleasant to read than some other older translation I have in digital form.
You must know the history of Cervantes and meant the above in reference to his time in prison otherwise this is quite hilarious and profoundly the funniest thing I have read in a long time.
People may think your take is snarky but it’s very good actually. Classics become classic because they are beloved, not because “literature majors” demand it to be so. No novel has a readership outside of its own century that is not exceptional in some way. They must reach across time and into the universal heart of humanity to communicate so far beyond their own times. That’s why they’re still read. That’s why they’re classic.
Although I totally agree with you, there's also the meaning that the Classics is just a collection of books people claim to have read but never did.
Strong cultural impact? Yes. Riveting novel? No.
You know how academics rack up citation circles to "boost the impact of their publications"?
Literature is a bit like that where you have a small group of people dictating the tastes of others, until it eventually collapses in on itself like a black hole and you're staring at an empty canvas, a banana peel, and an empty can of deodorant and calling it art.
The sweeping generalizations do a great disservice to your otherwise good review.
I'm not a literature major, and I cannot recommend Don Quixote enough. My reason is simple: it was one of the funniest reads ever.
It's celebrated as an important milestone in the emergence of the modern novel, but more importantly perhaps, both for its humour, and profound empathy for the human condition.
But to go up there on a pedestal and mark it as one of the great literary achievements of the past 400 years and anybody who disagrees otherwise is a rube...Come on now.
Don Quixote is a very deceiving book if you don't understand its true nature. Looks like a sad and depressing history, but in fact Is a savage and dark parody.
The book is linked to a culture, an age and a landscape. We are probably unable to grasp a lot of references in a book written thousands of years before, so is a little like in the Simpsons, that small children don't enjoy so much (by lack of context) as adults do.
The author is a mutilated ex-soldier that has seen enough of the war to feel cynical about warmongers. He as a poor writer trying to struggle, probably envied the success of cheap literature and "pulp" histories from this age. The book is his personal revenge against the "undeserved winners". Specially against dilapidated nobility craving for adventures and glory and dragging lower classes to feed their wars and crazy campaigns and die for the cause.
To write a book criticizing the wars wouldn't be wise. Kings do the war, but he can target the nobility that thinks that is somebody but don't have any experience with war, working, women or the real life. And here comes the nerd.
Quixote is basically a grown man so obsessed by superhero comics and so clueless about society that one day starts driving around the neighborhood disguised as batman and searching for crimes in his bicycle. The problem is that he hasn't any money, talent or fighting skills, so the results are entirely predictable. Some people would find it hilarious, for other it hits too close to home and is not funny at all.
You shouldn't like Don Quixote, is just a crash test dummy, a freak and an idiot for most of the book. But if you meet personally somebody that fits in the stereotype, now you can enjoy each time he hits the ground, chooses the wrong option, and each time "a piano falls in his head".
The fact that you understand individual revenge against societies and know the creative shapes it can take, gives you credibility.
But I don't think there are a lot of people that manage to get up to that level of understanding of the complexity of human behavior and their relationship with society.
Maybe the problem is the bubble I surround me with, but for me you're the first to ever even bring it up as a concept, even though it is something that interests me, I love the duplicity and depth it takes, the veracity and creativity it can take, the willfulness it requires to exact your revenge and intentionally releasing your wrath on all of humanity in a constructive way.
But I suspect most people will have a hard time really understanding your comment.
Though as a current day Don Quixote, I do appreciate it. But don't think I don't know what I am. I just don't care about your judgement. You're just as insane and ridiculous as I am, I just embraced it with the same willful ignorance you're using to deny it. The fact that I will get punished for that is something I'm willing to accept in return for the bewilderment I cause. It's all a joke after all and I can't die more than a couple of times anyway.
Not like there's a whole lot else to do once you realize this is just a simulator and not a very good one at that. The fuck is this thing even supposed to do? Fucking AI has way too much processing power available if it's messing around to this degree.
It was one of the novels behind René Girard's early development of his theory of mimetic desire+, in Deceit, Desire and the Novel ( is a review).
I'm fascinated that OP sees the book as offering subtle life advice, while Girard sees it as an analysis of an aspect of human nature we all share.
+as made famous by Peter Thiel... but there's much more to the theory than just a paradigm to build social media on.
Part 1 is relatively short and hilarious and can be very much read and enjoyed on its own. It is perhaps easier to get tired of the style in part two.
It also matters which translation you read.
Have you got a recommendation?
I'm not immediately convinced that Don Quixote is a more effective manual for living than other classic works of literature, but it's interesting enough to make me consider a reread. I'm sure it would be a completely new experience.
Now, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - that is a manual for living. Many quotes are words to abide by. “Where it is objectively inaccurate, the Guide strives to be definitively inaccurate.” “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” “Who can rule, when nobody who wants to rule can be allowed to?” etc. The raging absurdities are fantastically insightful.
or high school lit class
No particular reason other them being obscure (on HN at least) and pretty good reads.
(c'mon, you gonna pretend you really read the entire GEB on the bookshelf behind you right now?)
Seriously? This is a book that is plenty accessible for high school students, and not outrageously long or notably archaic.
If you want an English-language analogy stick to something like Canterbury Tales or Moby Dick or Ulysses or Infinite Jest.
When I was a teenager, just before I started more seriously getting into programming on the school computers, a Russian friend asked his dad— a soviet university trained software engineer— how he could learn to code. His dad handed him a his stack of Knuth and said "read that and then get back to me."
Of course, the kid read 10 pages of Fundamental Algorithms, put the book down, and never tried to learn how to code ever again. Why would he have? As far as he was concerned, the very first steps were a big pile of confusing theory that wasn't bringing him closer to his goal of doing some fun projects with a computer at any point in the near future. He had to absorb all that just to start? Forget it.
Looking back, I think his dad probably thought it was funny and probably even joked with his coworkers about it... but I wonder how different my friend's path would have been if his dad handed him a copy of Learning Perl (it was the mid 90s) and helped him get ActivePerl installed on his machine. If your nerd machismo is so intense that you're alienating your own teen kid with it, you really need to reconsider your life strategy.
Note that TAOCP is more a reference book for professional researchers than a book to skim quickly cover-to-cover.
2nd reaction: holy shit, this is how programmers thought until the 80s.
It is worth working through some of the code until they make sense, but Introduction to Algorithms is much more accessible.
Can't deny the boxes set looks great on a shelf, though.
I have only read about 80 pages of El Quijote.
It's not like it is a long book.
Now Metamagical Themas is a different story.