Joining the ranks of struggling readers

Here’s a challenge. Michael and I received a dinner invite for next April in the mail this week. Why so far in advance? There is a requirement for the dinner, we must have read Don Quixote, the original by Cervantes who, I found out in the fine print, died on the same day as Shakespeare. Just watching the movie adaptation of the Man of La Mancha won’t do at all — all 1000 pages must be read.

On the shelf, as a stoic member of the Britannica Great Books collection I inherited from my first husband, I found the text, dusted it off and last night read the first chapter of Part 1. Cervantes may be a long time dead, but the man has a bit of a sense of humor, I was pleased to find. The language is complex though, requiring me to read and reread paragraphs before I start to get it.

A lot happens in this first chapter. We learn that Don Quixote is really a mad country gentleman who is arrogant and ill-conditioned (full of himself and out of shape) but also affable and well-bred (not cranky and from a decent family). And he is also thoroughly mad, “his wits being quite gone.” Anyway, he is determined to “make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world over in full armor and on horseback in quest of adventures, righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which, in the issue, he was to reap eternal renown and fame.” He dubs himself Quixote and his horse Rocinante.

Then he thinks he needs (naturally) a lady fair, so he picks a local farm girl who he used to have a crush on, but she doesn’t know he is alive. But that’s okay with him, because he’s nuts.

end of chapter 1. Maybe this won’t be so bad. I just need to take time to digest it along the way. Rethink it in modern terms.

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