To only see Don Quixote de la Mancha as merely a book of humour, simply a manifestation of belly-laughs (which it does provide in abundance), would be seeing just the very fringe of its brilliance. What would be missed? Missing would be Cervantes as one the shrewdest observers of human nature ever.
Don Quixote seems a book running full-tilt at phantoms that have no existence, save in Quixote and even Sancho's imaginations. But the truth is, this book touches at the imaginings, and mines at the characters of us all. Don Quixote opens the window to all experiences, real or imagined, of existence -- our existence. Sancho is the first filter, the first critic of that experience, seventeenth-century Spain the second, and we, dear reader, the third. In this last taking we become the co-dependant Quixote and Sancho looking through the mirror; measuring the world amongst the impractical, the idealistic, the fanciful, and the truest of all illusions -- reality.
Still not said is the Cervantes' plays within plays, adroit social comment, and the author's cutting jibes at pretense. (And of course his broadsides at the pretenders to the True History of Don Quixote.) These departures present themselves carefully -- although sometimes abruptly -- as soliloquies, cutting criticism, contemplative moments, sonorous stories, and even as novels. In this, Cervantes is always intentional in leaving us wedded to the Adventure, while implementing these punctuating asides to incite and motivate our viewpoint.
Perhaps the greatest book ever written.
As to the reader of Don Quixote, Robert Whitfield? I would listen to him read the phonebook. Perfection!
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