This is the inaugural post of my buddy read of Part II of Don Quixote, which I’ve been meaning to finish for more than a year. I’m so glad Emma from Words and Peace agreed to read a chapter a day (more or less) along with me!
We’ll be taking turns to post about our progress every couple of weeks, so here are my impressions of the opening chapters. In Part II, Don Quixote insists on returning to a life of knight errantry, in spite of the efforts of his friends and neighbors to restore him to sanity, and his long-suffering squire Sancho goes along for the ride once more. It takes a while to get going, but once they do there’s an encounter with the Don’s beloved lady Dulcinea, who has inexplicably been turned by wicked magic into a hideous peasant girl. Following this they meet a troupe of traveling players who play havoc with Sancho’s donkey, and then another lovelorn knight who seems to have the same chivalric madness.
What is real? To what extent do we see only what we want to see? And how can we ever truly meet one another, when we manipulate our perceptions according to our desires? As in Part I, these questions come up over and over again, with both comic and tragic ramifications. Don Quixote’s longing for the ideal feminine is noble, but his refusal to accept what is in front of his face is absurd. His servant is more pragmatic but no less ridiculous, with his eternal hope of gaining an “insula” from this mad quest. Maybe he goes along just because the adventure is more entertaining than ordinary life at home, in spite of all the pratfalls he takes.
So far, I feel Cervantes is just getting warmed up, coming back into the mode of the novel he left off ten years earlier. Where will this journey lead? Will Don Quixote actually learn something this time? I’ll be looking forward to finding out.