A friend of mine, interested in reading Don Quijote de la Mancha, wondered if anyone wanted to join her in the quest. Being a good friend, I said “Yes!” In the vein of a true masochist I delved into the pages of this very old book, and reintroduced myself to the genius of Miguel de Cervantes – to his complex use of the Spanish language and natural wit to recreate the dreamy character, Don Quijote de la Mancha.
I remember the story fairly well. DQ, off on a mission to reconstruct his life as a knight in shining armor, is in reality the opposite from what he conjures in his mind – a middle aged decrepit old man who has gone mad reading too much literature: stories like “El Mio Cid” and “Amadís de Gaula,” depicting heroes of the Spanish Medieval Age. Don Quijote emulates everything about these characters, and aims to be like them.
In chapter two, Don Quijote, departs from his humble abode to travel under the heat and dryness of the day. Cervantes satirically wrote: (my own translation) “The sun ardently beat down forcefully, enough to melt the brains of anyone, if they had them at all.” In his travels, DQ comes upon a castle, and of course he arrives wondering why he is not received with regal pomp, and circumstance. In search of a place to rest his head he’s greeted by the keeper using words reminiscent of the piqued sarcasm of Cervantes, and paints a picture of life that is far from luxurious: “the beds of your honor will always be hard rocks and your hours of sleep, forever wakeful.” It’s a warning of the worst to come, for the knight-errant who just began his journey, carries only visions of grandeur in his head.
DQ continues his journey in Chapter 3, riding his skinny horse named Rocinante, on the look out for his fairly unkempt princess, Dulcinea. Soon he meets his fat and faithful side kick, his ‘escudero’ Sancho Panza. Sancho is a faithful companion. Traveling with Quijote throughout the story, Sancho tries to convince his lord of Reality, but the hopeless Don Quijote insists on dreaming the impossible dream.
My friend and I soon concurred that perhaps we wouldn’t read the WHOLE book, in one fell swoop, for we have much else to do, but we’ll honor Cervantes in creating this great masterpiece, and plan to return to the story, in some shape and form, for to abandon Don Quijote is to abandon the truth he sought. So like Sancho Panza, we will in spirit accompany Don Quijote through his journey, to pursue the impossible dream, for it’s the journey of all of us, and aren’t we all together, in this quest?