CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006
Don Quixote of La Mancha, "the possessor of a questing heart," has become delusional from excessive reading and thinks he is a knight who must seek adventure. The beginning of Book II features Don Quixote in his bed, recovering from his escapades. However, after discovering that a book has been written about his noble adventures, he decides to return to his quest, with his slapstick squire Sancho Panza in tow, in order to create appropriate material for a sequel. At first, the dynamic duo intend to enter the jousting contest at Saragossa, although Quixote learns that he must disenchant his beloved, the (somewhat imaginary) fair Dulcinea del Toboso. However, he swiftly becomes sidetracked, as he is forced to duel with the giant Malambrano, defend a sullied daughter, and make other such sundry efforts to retain the literary glamour of knighthood. Quixote discovers, most unfortunately, that his persona has been parodied by an illicit Book II of his life, and so he decides that he will spoil the plot. Alas, the literary hero comes to an uncharted, unchivalrous end, all the while cursing the writer of his unauthorized biography.
The 400-year-old Don Quixote, widely considered the world's first novel, is frequently retold and parodied by other authors, such as the American writer Kathy Acker. In this case, Nichol's retelling of Books I and II of Don Quixote was begun after she created a radio documentary on the subject for CBC Radio's series "Ideas," for which she completed extensive research in the field of Cervantes studies.
Nichol's retelling retains the original cleverness and flavour of Cervantes' text. From the original work, Nichol chooses stories that have only to do with the main plot in order to provide an adaptation that is compelling in its encapsulation of the merriment and puzzlement that is Don Quixote. In addition, she provides a brief prologue, meant specifically for readers who have not read her Book I, that is both informative and entertaining: "If there are errors, they're the printer's fault." Also in keeping with the original, the retelling is endlessly self-referential, as the narrator remarks breathlessly at a particularly worrisome turn of events, "Thank heaven for the sort of chance that plots provide for worried readers of exciting tales." As a result, the narrative continues to provokes thought about -- and poke fun at -- the meanings of allusions, illusions, and disillusions.
Accessible and entertaining, Barbara Nichol's version of Don Quixote will interest advanced students who have a taste for the historical and who have a wry sense of humour.
Pam Klassen-Dueck, a certified teacher, is a graduate student in the English Department at the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.