Sunday, May 01, 2016

Quixote - 400th year


I've never been able to find a way into Shakespeare, whose 400 year anniversary is being celebrated far and wide this year. I haven't given up yet though and await a decent translation from olde worlde English in to contemporary English. On that note, Cervantes' masterpiece, Don Quixote, is also 400 years old this year and there are several excellent translations to enjoy. The one I have read over and over, and over ... and over, is by Edith Grossman. This version remains my desert island book.

After a quick rummage around on the internet I found an interview with Grossman which answers a question I long asked (in my mind) of the translator - did she consider the story a tradegy or a farce:

Guernica: How do you see it — as a sad book? A funny book? Both?

Edith Grossman: It’s very interesting. Over the years my opinion has changed. When I first read it, I read it in translation as a teenager. I was sixteen or seventeen years old and I thought it was the saddest damn book I ever read in my life. What happened to Quixote just broke my heart. And through my twenties I saw it as an immensely tragic book. But as I got older I found it funnier and funnier. And when I was translating it I was actually laughing out loud at times, because some of the scenes are high comedy and some are the lowest kinds of slapstick burlesque. And so I saw myself finding it funnier and funnier. But of course all great comedy has a sub-stratum of tragedy, so I think it is both immensely sad and tremendously funny.

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