The great truth while lies at the heart of Don Quixote is the truth that the conflict of the world is chiefly a conflict between goods. The battle between the idealism of Don Quixote and the realism of the inn-keeper is a battle so hot and ceaseless that we know that they must both be right. A vulgar philosophy laments the wickedness of the world, but when we come to think of it we realise that the confusion of life, the doubt and turmoil and bewildering responsibility of life, largely arise from the enormous amount of good in the world.
There is much to be said for everybody; there are too many points of view; too many truths that contradict each other, too many loves which hate each other. Our earth is not, as Hamlet said, “an unweeded garden”, but a garden which is choked and disordered with neglected flowers. The eternal glory of Don Quixote in the literary world is that it holds perfectly even the two scales of the mysticism of the Knight and the rationalism of the Squire. Deep underneath all the superficial wit and palpable gaiety of the story there runs a far deeper kind of irony — an irony that is older than the world. It is the irony that tells us that we live in a maddening and perplexing world, in which we are all right; and that the battle of existence has always been like King Arthur’s last battle in the mist, one in which “friend slew friend, not knowing whom he slew”.
Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that heaven has bestowed upon men; no treasures that the earth holds buried or the sea conceals can compare with it; for freedom, as for honour, life may and should be ventured; and on the other hand, captivity is the greatest evil that can fall to the lot of man.
Don Quixote - Don Quixote the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra (translated by John Ormsby)
Currently reading: Don Quixote, Volume One of an adaptation by Rob Davis, published by SelfMadeHero. Which is absolutely wonderful in every way. My local comic store stocks the greatest stuff, it really does.
Peter O’Toole as Miguel de Cervantes in Man of La Mancha (1972)
“Life as it is! I have lived nearly fifty years, and I have seen life as it is.
Pain, misery, hunger… cruelty beyond belief. I have heard the singing from taverns and the moans from bundles of filth on the streets. I have been a soldier and seen my comrades fall in battle… or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I have held them in my arms at the final moment.These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no gallant last words… only their eyes filled with confusion, whimpering the question, “Why?” I do not think they asked why they were dying, but why they had lived.
When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!”
Be that as it may, my understanding of the matter, my dear sir, is that to write histories and other books one needs a fine mind and a mature understanding. To tell jokes and write wittily is the work of geniuses; the most intelligent character in a play is the fool, because the actor playing the part of a simpleton must not be one. History is, as it were, sacred, because it must be truthful, and where there is truth there is God, because he is truth; and yet, in spite of all this, there are those who toss off books as if they were pancakes.