Donald Quixote and Sancho Trudeau

img_1643 Credit: Dewet on Flickr Creative Commons: Attribution/Share-Alike

Miguel Cervantes, in a brilliant, caustic reaction to the addiction in Spain in the early 17th Century to a huge crop of silly, chivalrous romances, published Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part 1 in 1605 and Part 2 in 1615). It is considered by some authorities as one of the first, and possibly the very best, novels ever written. Cervantes had a keen nose for farcical BS.

The knight-errant, Don Quixote, having read way too many such trashy stories, loses his mind and decides to take issue with almost anything he encounters in the desolate flatland of Spain called La Mancha. Suffering constantly from delusions of grandeur and hallucinatory visions, he sets off to right all imaginary, unchivalrous wrongs, accompanied by a tired old horse, Rocinante, having persuaded a humble neighbouring farmer, Sancho Panza, to be his squire.

As a Canadian surveying the political scene in February 2017, the comic analogy described in the above photo has burrowed rapidly into my consciousness. Where the metaphor breaks down a little:

Sancho Panza possesses a sharp, entertaining sense of burlesque, whereas “Sancho” Trudeau is comparatively dull-witted and a trifle narcissistic.

But, does the darkness of the surroundings ever work…

Miguel de Cervantes

Just an ordinary paseo in Madrid. Hundreds of Madrileños and their families (and tourists like me) visit Plaza de España and photograph each other after climbing this statue of the self-styled knight, Don Quixote, and his man, Sancho Panza – creatures of one of the very greatest novelists in history. Cervantes is ranked by many in the rarefied company of Shakespeare and Dante. The author himself oversees the statue from behind and above.

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Miguel de Cervantes wrote the first modern novel: Don Quixote. While it was well received in Spain c. 1605 , the genius of this great work was not realized by the literary world until much later because the crude English translations of the time emphasized the farce at the expense of the brilliant, insightful satire on the over-heroic, over-romantic literature that dominated Spain at the time. Reading too much crap, so this great story goes, caused Don Quixote to go a little crazy. His story is about his relentless, foolhardy attempt to revive chivalry single-handed.

Cervantes’ life was very unusual and is worth reading up on. He joined the military and was enslaved for 5 years after being captured by Algerian Corsairs.  During his imprisonment he showed great mercy, bravery and self-sacrifice in making life easier for his fellow prisioners.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is attributed to him:

Too much sanity may be madness, and the maddest of all to see life as it is and not as it should be.