by Miguel de Cervantes
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness — and the maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!
Okay, after the short detour, we return to the realm of literary heavyweights. And what book to begin with better than Don Quixote, often referred to as first significant European novel of the Modern Age.
I often find writing about a book that carries such reputation to be quite daunting; and often equally unnecessary, since everything that does need to be said about such books already has been, and by great minds than myself.
However, with this one, I will make an exception, because it is my personal connection to the story that makes it special…
When my father first handed me the book, I had no idea of its reputation, and unlike most books in this segment, I ended up reading this when I was too young for it. However, while my mind was not quite ready to comprehend its true depth, my heart did immediately connect with the eponymous protagonist.
Basically, the story is about a middle-aged bibliophile whose mind, through a combination of fantansic stories about heroic knights and several years of sleep deprivation, has supposedly dried up, causing him to recruit a peasant as his squire, he setting off seeking adventure and romance.
Owing to his addled brain, he sees the world around him quite different from what it actually is, instead living out a fantasy, often to humorous, but occasionally tragic, results.
This might be the earliest reference to augmented reality. And the reaction was not the same as one would expect today, wherein if you claim to see a big, scarlet, winged serpent floating outside your balcony, people do not laugh and jeer. Instead, they flock around your house, hoping to catch it…
Throughout the length of the story, the author questions the reader’s understanding of reality, sanity and morality, without sounding too preachy…
Oddly enough, Cervantes himself serves as the narrator of the story, claiming to be translating an existing manuscript by one Cide Hamete Benengali. At one point, he even states that the characters are aware of the book, and that they even try to alter parts of the story.
These claims, however, are fictitious, making the author an unreliable narrator. Pretty weird, right?
As a result, the narrative style can leave the reader somewhat disoriented, which seems to compound the effect of the prevelant themes.
Even at a very young age, I often found myself disenchanted by this world we live in, and would often spend hours at stretch wondering what our lives could, if only for a few minor tweaks.
That, of course, meant my attention towards reality in general, and academics in particular, was lacking. However, after having ended up as a writer, focusing on fantasy and faux-history, I can categorically state that things did eventually work out.
Despite the wide disconnect between myself and the setting of early seventeenth century Spain, I can see a part of myself in this book, and according to me, that is what makes it a true masterpiece.
I would wholeheartedly recommend it to all the whimsical souls whose minds have been messed up by this boring world of ours…
You can find the book here:
Well, that is all for today.