Introduction to DQ

I was hoping to post on Harold Bloom’s introduction to Don Quixote after I’d had a chance to read it this evening, but I’ve just finished it and I thought it was terrible, so I won’t be posting on it after all.  Has anybody else read it, from the Edith Grossman translation?  Yes, I’ll admit I’m tired this evening and not at my reading best, but still I couldn’t make much sense out of it and I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked it even if I’d felt more alert.  It’s rambling and vague and has rather too much Hamlet in it.

So, instead, I’ll give you a paragraph from Edith Grossman’s “Translator’s Note to the Reader,” which is short but much better than Bloom’s irritation introuction.  Describing Cervantes’s writing, she says:

[It] is a marvel: it gives off sparks and flows like honey.  Cervantes’s style is so artful it seems absolutely natural and inevitable; his irony is sweet-natured, his sensibility sophisticated, compassionate, and humorous.  If my translation works at all, the reader should keep turning the pages, smiling a good deal, periodically bursting into laughter, and impatiently waiting for the next synonym (Cervantes delighted in accumulating synonyms, especially descriptive ones, within the same phrase), the next mind-bending coincidence, the next variation on the structure of Don Quixote’s adventures, the next incomparable conversation between the knight and his squire.  To quote again from Cervantes’s prologue: “I do not want to charge you too much for the service I have performed in introducing you to so noble and honorable a knight; but I do want you to thank me for allowing you to make the acquaintance of the famous Sancho Panza, his squire….”

Tomorrow — to the novel itself!

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction

8 responses to “Introduction to DQ

  1. It feels kind of weird to be giddy about others reading a book that I really enjoyed, but I am. I hope you and the others in the group enjoy it as much as I did.

  2. Grossman’s introduction really tempts me. I’ve never been all that interested in Don Quixote, but this paragraph could certainly change my mind.

  3. I don’t remember Bloom’s introduction being so very irritating. I think I found it mildly annoying with a few interesting observations, particularly what he has to say about DQ’s sanity/insanity. If I recall he insists DQ has to be completely sane in order for the book to really mean anything. I ended up not agreeing with him. I don’t think in the end the truth of DQ’s sanity matters all that much.

  4. I had the same response to Bloom’s introduction. In fact, I was sufficiently put off by it that I didn’t bother to finish it. I liked Grossman’s translator’s note though. The bit that jumped out at me was this statement: “One reason for the exalted position that [Don Quixote] occupies is that Cervantes’s book contains within it, in germ or full-blown, practically every imaginative technique and device used by subsequent fiction writers to engage their readers and construct their works.” If I hadn’t already decided to read the book, that would definitely have lured me in…

  5. Now I don’t feel so bad–I didn’t bother finishing it either. I haven’t read Hamlet, so it all felt rather over the top of my head. I expected to hear wonderful things about why the book is so important, but I felt a little bit cheated. Maybe I will go back and reread it after I have read Hamlet and it will all make sense. I’m with Kate on liking that sentence about subsequent authors building on what he did. I’m also very intrigued with yesterday’s post by Brad on the Tilting at Windmills site–so much of this is new to me. I have started reading and DQ has jusrt been christened a Knight! Once you start reading, it is not so overwhelming. I’m curious about those sonnets…which I admit I sort of skimmed…

  6. LK

    I’m waiting for Nabokov’s notes on Cervantes — I hope it is better than Bloom’s! Thanks for the tip-off.

  7. Brad, I’m sure I will enjoy it! And it’s great to be reading with a group — it’ll add to the experience, I’m sure. Jenclair — I know, after that praise, how can you resist? Stefanie, that’s interesting — I’ll have to see what I think about DQ’s level of craziness :) Kate, I’m glad I’m alone! I loved that Grossman quotation too. Danielle, it really wasn’t a helpful introduction at all — I usually like the information introductions give me, but not this time. LK, yes, at this point I’d much rather read Nabokov’s thoughts than Bloom’s.

  8. I never read Bloom’s introduction, but based on other stuff of his I’ve read, I probably would have skipped it (can’t think of anyone else who might have immediately turned me off the book before I’d read it). Grossman, on the other hand, judging by your quote, GETS it!

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