What begins as a middle-aged country gentleman absorbed with novels of chivalry deliberately evolves into a tale of purely imaginative knight-errantry in this highly influential work of the Spanish Golden Age. This first of modern novels was written in the experimental episodic form, allowing Don Quixote and his 'squire' Sancho Panza to go on quests that just as often as not land them in trouble or earn them the incredulity of those fully engaged in reality. While initially farcical, the novel slowly reveals a more philosophical thread exploring the theme of deception, all the while creating emotional and mental reversals in the two main figures that take them from tilting at windmills to fully comprehending reality. A work that frequently appears on lists in the highest echelon of published fiction, "Don Quixote" is a novel that has deeply influenced a host of notable writers and readers for over 400 years.
There would seem to be little reason for yet another translation of Don Quixote. Translated into English some 20 times since the novel appeared in two parts in 1605 and 1615, and at least five times in the last half-century, it is currently available in multiple editions (the most recent is the 1999 Norton Critical Edition translated by Burton Raffel). Yet Grossman bravely attempts a fresh rendition of the adventures of the intrepid knight Don Quixote and his humble squire Sancho Panza. As the respected translator of many of Latin America's finest writers (among them Gabriel Garc!a M rquez, Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa), she is well suited to the task, and her translation is admirably readable and consistent while managing to retain the vigor, sly humor and colloquial playfulness of the Spanish. Erring on the side of the literal, she isn't afraid to turn out clunky sentences; what she loses in smoothness and elegance she gains in vitality. The text is free of archaisms the contemporary reader will rarely stumble over a word and the footnotes (though rather erratically supplied) are generally helpful. Her version easily bests Raffel's ambitious but eccentric and uneven effort, and though it may not immediately supplant standard translations by J.M. Cohen, Samuel Putnam and Walter Starkie, it should give them a run for their money. Against the odds, Grossman has given us an honest, robust and freshly revelatory Quixote for our times. (Nov.) Forecast: A somber, graceless jacket won't do this edition any favors, but the packaging of the paperback will be most important in determining future sales. In any case, this will be an essential backlist title. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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January 01, 2009
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