Okay, Tyler, I will answer your question as asked: The 2003 translation by Edith Grossman is currently the most popular in English.
With his 1605 publishing of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes invented fiction as we know it. In that book, Cervantes pioneered every storytelling device currently used in modern literature. Other than the Bible, it has sold more copies than any other book in history.
Shakespeare and Cervantes –the most celebrated voices in English literature and in Spanish – lifted their candles to the world simultaneously. And both of those candles flickered out on April 23, 1616.
And now I get in trouble: The book, itself, isn’t what fascinates the wizard and me. It is the idea of Quixote we love. In our opinion, the book is a little bit clunky and disjointed.
But most people would disagree. “In 2002, a panel of 100 leading authors from 54 countries chose Don Quixote as the best book ever. It bagged 50 percent more votes than any other book.” – CBS News
According to that CBS News story,
The original Don Quixote spans 126 chapters and nearly 1,000 pages. Written in archaic although beautifully crafted Spanish, it demands considerable patience and concentration. Translations and modern language adaptations lighten the task but even still, most people, Spaniards included, shy from it.
“Everyone has it on their bookshelves but not even a minority get through it,” said Juan Victorio, medieval literature professor at Spain’s National Open University who first read it to his bedridden, illiterate grandfather as a child.
Many are happy sticking to the greatly simplified and substantially doctored 1970s film version of the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha,” with the movie starring Peter O’Toole as the crazy knight and Sofia Loren as the beautiful Dulcinea.
“Most people in Japan have never read it, but they know Don Quixote. They love his adventures,” said Mika Kudo, a 35-year-old Japanese tourist guide, as her group took snaps and shot each other on video beside the bronze statues of the famous knight and his partner in Madrid’s Plaza de Espana.
“It’s by no means impossible to read,” defends Edward Friedman, a Spanish professor and Cervantes expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. “It’s a great pleasure, but it’s good to read it with someone or something guiding you.”
Victorio maintains that “one needs be in a certain mental state…to have suffered at life’s hands” before taking on Quixote.
There you have it, Tyler. The reading of the book is a bit of a slog. My suggestion is that you watch the movie Man of La Mancha with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren.
But now let me talk about the idea of Quixote:
He saw beauty where others did not.
He set out to make the world a better place.
And he had the courage and tenacity of his convictions.
Don Quixote attempts 40 exploits. In 20 of those, he fails and suffers. But he miraculously succeeds 20 times, as well.
The idea of Quixote was best summarized by Joe Darion in 1972 when he wrote the lyrics to “The Quest,” better known as “The Impossible Dream,” the leitmotif of the Broadway play and subsequent movie, Man of LaMancha.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest
And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star
That’s what we believe in.
Thanks for the question, Tyler.
– Indy Beagle