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Lost in the Translation

By SocratesGhost in Culture
Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:53:32 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)

The single most published book of all time is the Bible. Can you name the second most popular book? Hint: it's not in English.

Perhaps the answer to this question depends on who we ask since authorties disagree. Excluding scientific or other religious works, though, the second most published work of all time is not Shakespeare's Folio nor Melville's Moby Dick. It is Don Quixote by the spaniard Miguel de Cervantes. And yet, this work may as well never have been published for all the awareness that we give it nowadays.

Storytelling is omnipresent, yet the stories of the sad faced knight are unsettlingly absent despite its popularity. Mass culture gives new treatments to the Odyssey and King Arthur, yet Alonso Quixana is more of a mystery than who is Luke Skywalker's father. This is not a condemnation of other great works, nor of works crafted natively in English. There is no more chilling writer than Poe and few people can outperform his rhythmic poetic command of the language. We can find wit and humor from Twain, depth and weightiness in Milton.

Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the lack of familiarity with Don Quixote surprises no one. It is partly the purpose of this piece to address this non chalance. It is also an exhortation for appreciation to both halves of the creative work: the message within and its artful conveyance. We may even --if we are daring-- approach the spanish language barrier as we would approach a four minute mile: a challenge that improves us.

Telling The Story

Story telling and story reading have been pastimes since the invention of language. Perhaps we could go back further than language and even imagine cave paintings as the first illustrations to stories that hunters were trying to tell, or as backdrops to recreations of events. Stories command our attention, and we welcome the obedience. While they are products of their geographies and cultures, more importantly they are also products of inspiration, otherwise story telling would be as pedestrian as ditch digging and about as interesting. While moments of creative genius come to us all, it is the author who alchemically transforms personal revelation into an experience in which everyone may partake, a literary messiah splitting the loaves of his insight.
    "For me alone Don Quixote was born and I for him. His was the power of action, mine of writing. Only we two are one..."
So begins the final paragraph of Don Quixote, in a note from the author to claim domain over what was his inspiration alone. His work had gained so much popularity that, when he finally published the sequel (what is now considered Part II), an unknown writer penned what they considered to be a fitting end to the story, but Cervantes felt the need to rebuke it. Yet, these words also observe the act of writing too, identifying the author with the work. Cervantes himself spent his life in and out of debt and jail and his own experiences proved ripe for exploitation in the stories. Despite the success of the work, though, Cervantes never materially appreciated the success of his work. Part I was cheaply sold to the publisher before anyone knew it was a success; Part II was written close to his death. Cervantes' success was absent of any reward; Don Quixote's victories were only in his insanity. They have more in common than the transfer from the mind to the paper. It's little wonder that other authors in particular find Cervantes to be so fertile.

All writings have a shelf life as determined by readers. Some works exist for about as long as milk in direct sunlight. Others stay with us like Twinkies. While this doesn't portray the classics in a flattering light, it does say something about the creative intellect: some works are fated to endure while others are perishable. Four hundred years hence, will people write about Danielle Steele and Michael Crichton as we do about Cervantes and Melville? There is no shame in being a writer of a work that's disposable; few works ever attain immortality for themselves or their authors. If it sells and entertains, that is sufficient to have served its purpose. Great works endure either because they are milestones (the first of their kind), or because they are true works of art, that is, the art continues to work even on repeat experiences.
    "to be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

    "I am I, Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha."
These two quotes are testaments to Don Quixote. Cervantes wrote neither of them. Identity is a recurring element in the book, as well as the ability to sculpt oneself out of dreams. Issues of identity occur in many works and Cervantes was not the first: Odysseus introduces himself to Polyphemus as "Noman" in order to escape his cyclopean adversary ("No man hurt me", says Polyphemus to his neighbors later, and consequently they don't react). He even stages his own triumphant return to Ithaca by disguising his identity in order to prove his worth naked of name and reputation. Yet in this case, as well as all stories before Don Quixote, identity is a device in the story, but not the story itself. Odyssey is about a returning king. Don Quixote is about a mad man who thinks he is a knight. It is also about a wise cracking squire who may very well be the first literary instance of a "co-dependent enabler". Both men react to their environments and change as a result of it. Yet, while the Don is insane and cannot help himself, Sancho chooses the silly Knight's old ways and even seeks to preserve the fantasy.

Identity and the question of self are always ripe topics for writing; we may know what our existence is but we sure have a hard time putting it into words. Cervantes is writing epistemology as satire and comedy, and he was among the first fully to mine this rich area for the purposes of story telling. One can never afford to forget that Don Quixote is defining himself in spite of his surroundings: a knight in a world where knights no longer exist. He is who we would wish to be, if we had the gumption to disregard convention.

Telling It Well

Four hundred years ago, Cervantes was answering the question that every lady asks today: where is my knight in shining armor? He is gone, milady. Only madmen vow to knight errantry now.

Adventure stories always have a strong popular following, from the epics of Gilgamesh through the Odyssey through Beowulf through Parzifal through Treasure Island and up to our current glut in science fiction and fantasy books. Don Quixote has this spirit and judging by the number of purchased copies worldwide we'd have to say he has done his job well. Hollywood knows that audiences enjoy buddy films, especially if the buddies are from two different worlds. Don Quixote may have been the first with noble Don Quixote and the peasant Sancho Panza: they chatted, bantered, disagreed, fought, and reconciled long before Hollywood was around to discover that this was the forumula. Most significantly, screenwriters and novelists are chastised today if their characters have no life or are unbelievable. Don Quixote was among the first to characterize effectively. After reading the books, readers have a much better sense of the type of person that is Don Quixote than we ever would of Mallory's King Arthur. It was also an early adopter of writing speech in the common dialect. This accomplishment seems unremarkable to a modern audience but a comparison to any work prior to Cervantes (and even of his contemporaries such as Shakespeare) reveals the writing's prosaic modernity.

That Cervantes created a beloved and lasting work is beyond doubt. Its endurance is etched in music (The Man of La Mancha and several operas), movies (I'm convinced that Don Juan DeMarco with Johnny Depp and Marlon Brando has more in common with Cervantes than Byron), and even in English; to be quixotic is to be impractically idealistic.

There are no birds of this year in last year's nests

We may know there are no more knights in shining armor, but where has gone our knight in rusted armor, his nag-stead Rocinante and the last true squire? A classic lives on by being read by new generations and by inspiring other writers to dwell in that world. It would seem, though, that we are significantly more aware of the Le Morte de Arthur or Canterbury Tales, while these are in no less need of translation. Since language is not seemingly the barrier, there must be a reason for the absence of Don Quixote.

I'd speculate that one reason for this is to Cervantes' credit and blame. Before his time, a madman was an omen for devilry and thus it was impossible to write about a friendly madman unless they be inspired by God. Alonso Quixana, though a pious man, is more inspired by books on knight errantry and seduced to become Don Quixote. The signature element of the book is this willing jump into madness. The novelty of this device to convey the story allows Cervantes to dive to great depths in social commentary and existential exploration. It just so happens that madmen also happen to do the funniest things, which makes the work lighter than ordinarily. Imitators of Don Quixote must negotiate with this element of madness, but do so only with great difficulty. Madness is an extraordinary circumstance, the frequent use of which weakens the plausability of the device and too quickly identifies the inspiration. In dealing with singular extraordinary circumstances many issues overlap and from the moment that the device is employed, it flirts dangerously with imitation rather than developing something new. While an author can spin new adventures for Launcelot without having to develop new devices, or more stories about the whaling and the ocean without having to mention Moby Dick, Cervantes' single powerful ploy makes it impossible to neglect and difficult to include. Writers would have equal difficulty writing about a short nosed Cyrano de Bergerac, or someone with a big nose that is not. Mere imitation would be an occupational hazard for a writer of the Cervantes tradition, if one could exist. The stench of cliche immediately arises when this is presented in a movie, just as much as amnesia, role reversal, or the hackneyed "the murderer is dead--or is he?". The result would be a frustrated author trying to overcome the insanity hurdle, who gives up and goes over to the Arthurian side instead. Writing is easier that way. The writer's ease, though, is the public's loss; newpapers don't mention 400 year old works unless they are reinvented somehow.

Another possible reason is that the knight has fully lost his battle and imaginative reinterpretation have no place along with knight errantry. I'll not dwell on this. The notion saddens me too much.


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How familiar are you with Don Quixote?
o I have read it several times. 5%
o I have read it once 16%
o It was required reading (but I didn't read it) 1%
o I know the basic story. 33%
o I know it exists. Does that count? 37%
o Does it have something to do with the mafia? 5%

Votes: 159
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o awareness
o Odyssey
o King Arthur
o Also by SocratesGhost

Display: Sort:
Lost in the Translation | 89 comments (76 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
Best. Novel. Ever. (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by Bad Harmony on Tue May 28, 2002 at 10:07:52 PM EST

There was a story on the BBC that reported that a writers' poll selected Don Quixote as the best work of fiction ever written.

54º40' or Fight!

BBC gets it wrong (none / 0) (#31)
by haro on Wed May 29, 2002 at 08:15:51 AM EST

If you read the article be aware that when BBC tells you "The Norwegian Nobel Institute organised the poll, but did not say which stories followed Don Quixote in the other top spots. " they are wrong. It was a Norwegian book club, and apparently they will publish the 100 selected books over the next years.

[ Parent ]
Actually (4.60 / 5) (#8)
by zephc on Tue May 28, 2002 at 10:46:30 PM EST

It's the Tao Te Ching ^_^  It's well over 2000 years old, and has been translated into many many languages. (tho you miss a lot in the translation)

Oh, hmm, Bible and Don Quixote... you must mean works of fiction ;)

or Euclid's Elements (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by SocratesGhost on Tue May 28, 2002 at 11:11:25 PM EST

Euclid, Lao Tsu, and Cervantes are all contenders for the #2 crown, but it depends on who you ask and what is meant by the word publishing. If memory serves, the Chinese counted works from even before book publishing was possible.

Of course, they do have a built an audience of 1 billion, so that works in their favor.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
You forgot Mao (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue May 28, 2002 at 11:49:42 PM EST

According to some sources, the infamous little red book is number 2.

[ Parent ]
They say you shouldn't count on empiricism (none / 0) (#82)
by mediaguy on Tue Jun 04, 2002 at 11:32:08 PM EST

I could have sworn that the second most popular book was "Green Eggs and Ham."

It's got drama and catchy pictures. It makes "The Song of Rowland" seem positively boring. Wait. "The Song of Rowland" is positively boring....

By the way, I tried that red book but it clashed with the rest of my room.

[ Parent ]

The second most popular book (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by Jonathan Walther on Tue May 28, 2002 at 11:06:51 PM EST

Was actually "Pilgrims Progress", by John Bunyan. It reads smoothly and well even today. Until the previous century, 90% of the English speaking world had only read one book, and "Pilgrims Progress" was the book. Writers of today can still learn a lot from Bunyans facility with the English language.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

followed by (1.00 / 1) (#21)
by Lode Runner on Wed May 29, 2002 at 03:37:32 AM EST

Little Black Sambo, right Jonny? Which of these works should we read to our kids during the intermission of The Birth of a Nation?

[ Parent ]
Black Sambo (none / 0) (#41)
by jmzero on Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:28:43 AM EST

A little old lady showed me her old copy of this book.  She knew how un-PC it was, so she swore me to never mentioning that she had it.  She's dead now...

It's too bad the book was written about black people, as it's quite entertaining. Maybe George Lucas could rewrite it to be about folk from another planet or something.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

It's still in print of course... (none / 0) (#50)
by farmgeek on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:11:22 PM EST

and if memory serves sambo was Indian (not the native american type).

I still remember when I named our black lab sambo, and my mon made me change the name (it ended up being fluke).

I never figured out why until I was about 16 and saw mention of the sambo book, then it clicked.

[ Parent ]

I was rather young (none / 0) (#51)
by jmzero on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:38:07 PM EST

I remember the book having African characters  -but memory fades quickly.  I remember pancakes too.  And lions.  And someone absurdly large.

Anyways, thanks for the tip.  I wouldn't mind reading it again - I may have to get one.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]

Some Indians are black (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 30, 2002 at 12:22:23 AM EST

Not black as in African, but black as in Indian. India, like Africa, has an astonishing array of hues among its native inhabitants. I've many Indian co-workers. Some are quite light skinned. Others have skin so dark they could pass for African if it weren't for their uniquely Indian facial features.

Variety is good.

[ Parent ]

Anyone remember "Little Sambo's"? (none / 0) (#88)
by Meatbomb on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:13:30 PM EST

Or was it just "Sambo's" I was a young Canadian across the border... working back, must have been mid-late 70's. I distinctly remember eating in (at least one) Denny's style family restaurant called this, with cheesy paintings on the walls of cute little Indian Sambo-type kids. Even at the time and being young (I was maybe 12 or 13) I thought "WTF? Isn't this overtly racist?" Me and my Dad tut-tutted these crass racist Americans... I would imagine this chain has gone out of business by now.


Good News for Liberal Democracy!

[ Parent ]
Seasons (none / 0) (#89)
by epepke on Mon Jun 24, 2002 at 05:36:52 PM EST

They changed their name to "Seasons."

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
An aside (none / 0) (#30)
by salsaman on Wed May 29, 2002 at 07:40:35 AM EST

Probably of no interest to anybody here, but when I was at school I played the Pilgrim in an stage version of the book.

It was so long ago I'd actually forgotten about it.

[ Parent ]

Arrgh! (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by pyramid termite on Wed May 29, 2002 at 09:09:55 AM EST

I got to page 50 of Pilgrim's Progress. I thought the prose style was dull and wooden, the subject trite and the treatment of it obvious. I've read man pages that were more interesting.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
I won't respond (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by medham on Wed May 29, 2002 at 12:55:01 AM EST

To the inane Pilgrim's Progress troll, but it's well known that the Communist Manifesto is the most widely circulated book in the world. Even more than Chairman Mao's little red one. Or Queadaphne's little green one.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Or medham's little black one. (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by qpt on Wed May 29, 2002 at 05:08:26 AM EST

In all fairness, nobody reads it because it is quite blank.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

I thought (none / 0) (#27)
by FredBloggs on Wed May 29, 2002 at 05:17:36 AM EST

it was the Dr Seuss books?

[ Parent ]
A source.... (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by jmzero on Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:34:29 AM EST

Page here agrees with the parent post.  Seems pretty plausible to me...  Anyone have numbers for Cervantes?

"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
Best selling (5.00 / 1) (#47)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:44:44 AM EST

Yeah, but nobody sells it.

Damn communists.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Suspicious, but thought provoking, article (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by jabber on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:01:09 AM EST

While interesting enough, I find the timing of this article, and it's high-brow, meandering, academic style, a bit suspect considering that the semester has just ended for most schools across the country.

But I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'll see your Cervantes and raise you a Sienkiewicz. Anyone here ever even hear of him? Anyone here ever read anything by him? With Fire and Sword? The Deluge? In Desert and Wilderness? Maybe his seminal, and Nobel Prize (in Literature) winning Quo Vadis? Anyone?

The likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz get much too much 'play' for the caliber of material they crank out of their rapid-fire typewriters, while the true giants slowly sink into obscurity known only to tenured Literature professors and returning Jeopardy champions. It's too bad.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Not at all. Stephen king does have depth. (none / 0) (#15)
by MickLinux on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:49:29 AM EST

Try reading "The Eyes of the Dragon", and then "The Stand".

Take a look at the characteristics of Randall Flagg:

A demon, the last of the great magicians, in our world he doesn't actually do evil himself.  Rather, he gets others to do it in his name.

In EotD, he is as old as the country, some say he is the country.
Now look at the homophone for Randall Flagg.

("You're a Randall Flagg, you're a high-flying Flagg....)

The character of Randall Flagg is one example of the depth of Stephen King's writings.

Or look at the moral in "Needful Things".  In that book he takes a truism so far, and lets the reader see the result.

I don't always agree with King, and some of his writing is *pure trash*.  However, have you ever attempted to read Dumas?  That, too, is pure trash without any redeeming factors whatsoever.  

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

Depth... maybe. But quality? (none / 0) (#17)
by bodrius on Wed May 29, 2002 at 02:00:07 AM EST

I'm tempted to define King's depth in the inches "It" takes up of space in the bookshelf.

But I'll grant that it is deeper, philosophically speaking, than a lot of literature (which is not to say much).

But the execution is lacking. As a matter of fact, it is this occassional depth and the premise of a decent story, combined with the pure massiveness of his material which stunts the unaware reader, that somehow redeem his combination of bad grammar and Asimovian (another author redeemed by something else than literary talent) style.

Dumas, on the other hand, had other objectives. It was not trying to be deep, nor was it trying to send a message. Most literature is an aesthetic game, and does not seek those things. It's depth is derived from something else: their form is their message, and that may be deeper than you think.

Admittedly, it's better if it happens to say something. Dumas' credit, however, is that what he did want to tell (some silly melodramatic stories) he did tell very well, and taught other people how to build up stories and tell them more effectively that way. Including King.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

yes, but most influenced by Inklings (none / 0) (#24)
by MickLinux on Wed May 29, 2002 at 05:03:15 AM EST

After discussion on www.stephen-king.net, I have come to the conclusion that King was most influenced by the Inklings.  I could be wrong, I am often wrong....

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

King. (none / 0) (#66)
by BigZaphod on Thu May 30, 2002 at 01:20:19 AM EST

From what I've read so far in his book "On Writing," King seems to have been mostly influenced by old horror flicks.  I think the first "book" he wrote and self-published (selling to school mates and then getting in trouble by the principal) was actually a rewrite of a movie he had seen.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
I've always thought (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by medham on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:41:25 AM EST

That I was the last of the great magicians. But magic is getting thin in our old world, and my power wanes with it.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Sorry... last magician of rational thought (none / 0) (#25)
by MickLinux on Wed May 29, 2002 at 05:07:06 AM EST

Sorry... I remembered later that he was described by Ralph as "the last magician of rational thought".  

Naturally, a magician is someone who can make things appear out of nothing and disappear again [or seem to, anyhow].  Which means that the Flagg is being used to make reason appear and disappear at will....

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

King maybe imaginitive, but not Great. (none / 0) (#37)
by jabber on Wed May 29, 2002 at 09:27:00 AM EST

I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of King. I just can't seem to stick to any of his books. The films produced from them are, if at all indicative of his writing, clever and entertaining, but lacking in the substance that makes Great Literature great. About the most subtle of his works that I've seen so far is "Dolores Clairborne". It's the only one that seemed to deal with the 'human condition' to any extent. In it, King addresses delicate issues, but does not define them in the least.

Of course, I am basing my opinion on a veritable vaccuum of experience with his written work. :) I liked The Stand quite a bit, but for it's entertainment value alone. The statements King makes there are not naive, but they're not timeless either. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Try Bachmann's "The Long Walk" (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by MickLinux on Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:38:52 AM EST

The films are nothing like the books.  "The Shining" in the movie was scary... a little bit.  "The Shining" as a book CREEPED ME OUT.  I did not like it at all.  

If you like great human value, try "The Long Walk" by Bachmann (who is, in reality, Stephen King under a different name).  Also very good was his version of "the Blob", I think in the same book.

One of the things that King does do is less to his credit, and yet he often does a good job with it.
He rewrites stories.  That isn't too bad, C.S. Lewis did it in "Until we have faces", for example, but you can't call those works completely original.

So :

Salems lot <=> Braahm's Dracula (obvious)
"Langoliers" <=> The Spy who Loved Me (actually so!)
The Talisman <=> C.S. Lewis' Narnia / Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
The Blob  <=> The Blob

But when he does this -- and he doesn't always do it -- he rewrites completely, with a different theme, a different situation, and different morals.  So it is a new work; indeed, sometimes it is hard to figure out the original.  

I think what he does is say "well, if *I* were going to tell the story of ...." and then he designs his book.
Thus, Eyes of the Dragon is telling a fairy tale like Rapunzel, but so different you won't be able to pin it to Rapunzel.  The Stand might be a retake of any of the Armageddon books (I have no idea which one it would be).  

The Shining is the standard haunted house.

But as far as I can tell, "The Long Walk" is life, from birth to death.

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

yes. (none / 0) (#77)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 02:07:20 AM EST

The Bachman books ( I think all but one were made into a movie) are excellent.

Salems lot <=> Braahm's Dracula (obvious)
"Langoliers" <=> The Spy who Loved Me (actually so!)
The Talisman <=> C.S. Lewis' Narnia / Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
The Blob  <=> The Blob

Yeah Salem's Lot had a vampire but, it was just a different, in my eyes.

Langoliers, from 4 past midnite short stories, was an okay read, this is an example of a very very very VERY bad movie translation.

I have yet to read the Talisman or the Blob.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]

Irony (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:48:22 AM EST

I've seen interviews with Stephen King where he says much the same about his own work. His ego is unusually small for a best-selling author.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
I'll second that. (none / 0) (#76)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 01:57:48 AM EST

He is his worse critic. Read some of his forewards in his books.

Updated 02/20/2004
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[ Parent ]
The Shawshank Redemption... (none / 0) (#52)
by wiredog on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:40:48 PM EST

is based on a King short story.

"one masturbation reference per 13 K5ers" --Rusty
[ Parent ]
Bah! (none / 0) (#49)
by ucblockhead on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:50:39 AM EST

That, too, is pure trash without any redeeming factors whatsoever.
"Entertaining" is a redeeming factor. Hell, I'd say it was the most important redeeming factor.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Yep (none / 0) (#57)
by garlic on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:42:50 PM EST

That's exactly why I read both Dumas and King.

HUSI challenge: post 4 troll diaries on husi without being outed as a Kuron, or having the diaries deleted or moved by admins.
[ Parent ]

exactly. (none / 0) (#75)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 01:51:44 AM EST

The Stand was spectacular. I read and re-read it the summer 0f '96.

Which do you list as trash?

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]

Dark House is trash, one other I can think of... (none / 0) (#78)
by MickLinux on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 03:43:20 AM EST

I started reading Dark House, but the subject matter that he is working with is so rotten that it just doesn't bear reading. So I put it down. I think my fuse is real short for child abuse, even in fiction. I also thought that the short story about a college student who goes on a shooting rampage was trash. Just descriptions of exploding heads, but no moral, no depth, nothing really good about it at all. It was just destruction. One that wasn't trash -- Didn't Stephen King also do "Running Man"? It had a different ending, much like a film noir, but it had a point to it. Others that had elements of trash but had redeeming factors -- the Shining, Apt Pupil, IT, the Regulators. There are others yet that I haven't even looked at, and have no idea: Christine is one, for example.

I make a call to grace, for the alternative is more broken than you can imagine.
[ Parent ]

yes. (none / 0) (#80)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 02:00:15 PM EST

Running Man was King.
Regulators.  I can never remember, that was him and the companion book was bachman, which was sorta cool.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
Unfair comparison (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by bodrius on Wed May 29, 2002 at 01:51:51 AM EST

While most people may not be aware of Sienkiewicz's (sp? I barely remember a bit of Quo Vadis and know nothing else about him), comparing him with Cervantes is definitely an unfair comparison.

Miguel de Cervantes was considered up until relatively recently the universal father of literature, and Don Quixote the first true modern novel ("Tale of the Genji" is the consensus now).

Even after other contenders rose for that prestigious title, it was still considered one of the earliest and heaviest influences in world literature, and helped define the Spanish language (and the accompaining culture) which spread shortly after that throughout a good portion of the world and dominated history for a little while (therefore spreading to other parts of the world).  

Among lay circles, he is considered the Shakespeare for Spanish literature, and among learned circles, a bit more.

Most spanish-speaking populations are aware of Shakespeare, even though the translations do him no justice. It is remarkable that the same doesn't happen with Cervantes in the English-speaking world, although I suspect he is a bit harder to translate.

On the other hand, Sienkiewicz is a modern author who wrote, however masterfully, in Polish (which limited his literary influence a bit), and at an historical point where he obviously could not have the same influence.

It is rather expected that Sienkiewicz is ignored by most of the population, because they are not familiar with literature. Ignoring Cervantes is harder to excuse because of his role as precursor of the genre. To use philosophy as an analogy, Sienkiewicz may be an Espinoza, while Cervantes is a Socrates, and Shakespeare is an Aristotle (or switch them if you like). The latter two figures are sufficiently important to be familiar to the mainstream... or so we would hope.
Freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4, everything else follows...
[ Parent ]

Genji v. Quitoxte (none / 0) (#20)
by cr8dle2grave on Wed May 29, 2002 at 03:02:28 AM EST

Miguel de Cervantes was considered up until relatively recently the universal father of literature, and Don Quixote the first true modern novel ("Tale of the Genji" is the consensus now).

I'm not so sure there really is such a consensus on the matter of Genji's status as the first modern novel. Only by excluding the opinion of those whose analytic framework is an historical hermenutic in which cannonicity figures prominently (e.g., Bloom, Fish, Iser, Frye, Eco...) could such a consensus be asserted. Viewed from an historical perspective, The Tale of Genji is a non-event in western literature until relatively recently; the proverbial fallen tree gone unheard.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

[ Parent ]
It depends on how you define modern novel ... (none / 0) (#36)
by pyramid termite on Wed May 29, 2002 at 09:23:51 AM EST

... and whether it's important that a novel be modern or not. I assume that being written in prose would be a necessity, which eliminates a lot of ancient literature. However, Apuleius' Golden Ass is much older than Genji or Don Quixote and qualifies as a novel. If anyone can come up with something older, I'd be interested ...
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
FYI (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by SocratesGhost on Wed May 29, 2002 at 02:08:53 AM EST

I'm a 30 year who hasn't been to school in years where I studied philosophy, although I do continuously search for engaging areas to study. Since I live in San Diego and frequently travel throughout Mexico, my interest in spanish and spanish literature comes fairly naturally.

I agree, though. World literature in general has much to offer, especially when it confronts the sense that there is only one way to see the world. It's the cheapest way to travel.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Mexico and Miguel de Cervantes (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by theboz on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:58:40 PM EST

Have you ever been to Guanajuato? They have a Don Quixote museum and a lot of stuff related to it. Travelling there is actually the reason that I read Don Quixote.

I also see how the book could be modernized though. A lot of the inside jokes don't translate to English or even more modern Spanish. I've noticed the same problem in works by Shakespeare.

At the core, though, is a good story. I can forgive cultural and time-specific references that don't make sense when the story itself is compelling. Don Quixote says a lot to me. I see similarities in his motives and my own. He yearns for a simpler time with a way of life that was more idealistic than his own. I can understand that, and it makes it sad to see that his desire for that way of life causes him to go crazy and enter a fantasy world. I'm sure it means even more to older men, who are entering their mid-life crisis. Don Quixote seems to be about a mid-life crisis. Rather than being a 45 year old accountant buying a Harley, he decides to become a knight.

[ Parent ]

Stephen King (none / 0) (#74)
by /dev/trash on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 01:49:14 AM EST

he may get 'play' but he also has a dedicated loyal following. I was sucked in with Salem's Lot and enjoy most of his work. He shines as a short story writer and if you give him half a chance you'll see that he's an expert character oriented novel writer.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
A Slightly OT Question (2.60 / 5) (#19)
by DarkZero on Wed May 29, 2002 at 02:15:48 AM EST

Just out of curiosity, did you decide to dump your high school/college paper on K5 after submitting it, or did you submit it to K5 first in order to have it proofread and critiqued?

And no, I'm not trying to be an asshole. I'm seriously just curious about this.

neither (none / 0) (#45)
by SocratesGhost on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:06:09 AM EST

these are the kinds of articles that I like reading about and they don't appear on K5 very often. So, I decided to do something about it.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Odd... (none / 0) (#60)
by DarkZero on Wed May 29, 2002 at 06:33:08 PM EST

Sorry, then. I guess it just READS like the term papers that are regularly dumped on K5. The format seemed awfully familiar.

[ Parent ]
no worries (none / 0) (#61)
by SocratesGhost on Wed May 29, 2002 at 07:08:01 PM EST

The pedantic style comes from reading too much philosophy. it's not unlike drowning. At first you hate it but eventually you come around to accepting it.

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
You got to the.... (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by kimpton on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:28:44 AM EST

end of Don Quixote? I can remember starting it a few years ago, and a rollicking good read it was too. But I can't remember getting to the end, just too big and rambling.....

I've got to the end twice... (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Wed May 29, 2002 at 03:19:52 PM EST

...and I'm getting excited about my plans to reread it soon - after finishing Moby Dick for the third time. (I don't normally spend my time reading (literally) heavy literature but I do like these particular books).

But I can sympathize...I think that a large portion of the second part of Don Quixote is pretty flawed and far more rambling than it needs to be. But it's still worth reading.

If you want to see real rambling check out Tristram Shandy. Now that I gave up less than a quarter of the way through about three times. It's damn funny but eventually your brain fries as you try to follow all of the threads...
[ Parent ]

Moby Dick? Ugh!!! (none / 0) (#64)
by phliar on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:15:35 PM EST

Moby Dick just has to be the most absurdly turgid and unreadable book ever written! Why else would I be unable to read it? Like Dan Quayle with The Odyssey, I've tried to read it many times but I've never been beyond about 30 pages. Some books I love (anything by P. G. Wodehouse) -- my friends can't understand how I can stand them!

And this brings up the feature in Salon yesterday (May 28): I'd prefer not to -- the thesis being "Whether one chooses to admit it or not, every reader has a secret list of writers one is, for whatever reason, incapable of reading."

It just might be that with changing times and mores, Cervantes is in the "I'd prefer not to" list for most people.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Cultural dominance (4.50 / 4) (#39)
by mech9t8 on Wed May 29, 2002 at 09:56:51 AM EST

Mass culture gives new treatments to the Odyssey and King Arthur, yet Alonso Quixana is more of a mystery than who is Luke Skywalker's father.

Greek Myth and Authurian Legend have been around for a lot longer, and are part of the English tradition and mythos.  I would wager that Spanish educated people, in general, are far more familiar with Don Quixote than with Arthurian legend - and probably even Shakespeare.

If English cultural staples - Arthurian Legend, Shakespeare, etc - are more popular worldwide than others, I'd say it's probably more due simply due to English cultural dominance than the merits of the works themselves.


second most popular (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by mpalczew on Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:11:26 AM EST

I would think that the second most popular  book might be the Koran.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
Classics and changing fashions (5.00 / 5) (#44)
by IHCOYC on Wed May 29, 2002 at 10:52:52 AM EST

A hundred and fifty years ago, the now unreadable Renaissance fantasies of Tasso and Ariosto were considered masterpieces that every educated person should know. Few people in the twenty-first century have the patience to wade through these now, although their ostensible subject matter, with combats of knights, wizards, and monsters, is a genre that still has fans. The Faerie Queene was composed in imitation of these works. But now Camille Paglia has to struggle hard to make The Faerie Queene interesting to today's readers.

It may be that Cervantes, too, is becoming a bit too exotic to hold centre stage as a classic. The trope of Don Quixote jousting at windmills remains familiar, in the same vague and flickering way that Largo al Factotum is familiar to people who grew up on Warner Brothers cartoons. The complexities that made Cervantes a world classic are largely ignored.

What does this mean? Tastes change, and "canons" change with them, I suppose. We can be sure that Cervantes will not be forgotten, and perhaps as the wheel turns around again, it will undergo a revival. When I was in college, the world of Jane Austen seemed drearily prosaic, confining, and unliberated. Her novels were ill-suited to contemporary tastes. Apparently Jane Austen spoke more powerfully to the generation of the next decade, since an Austen fad arose some years after I graduated. Perhaps the next few years will revive Cervantes, or even Tasso and Ariosto? Who can tell?
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

Popular Where? (none / 0) (#46)
by PresJPolk on Wed May 29, 2002 at 11:33:56 AM EST

Maybe Don Quixote would be the second most popular in Europe, but I'd have figured the Quran would be somewhere near the very top of the list.

Thanks (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by subgenius on Wed May 29, 2002 at 02:30:37 PM EST

for a great article on my favorite work of fiction. I too believe in knight errantry and practice it as much as possible.

OOps, gotta go. Here comes another one of those pesky windmills.

Drive On!
Drive On!

Really the second most popular? (none / 0) (#54)
by afree87 on Wed May 29, 2002 at 03:18:58 PM EST

Various sources are citing these books as the second most popular:

  • Pilgrims' Progress
  • Mao Tse-tsung's "The Red Book"
  • Tao Te Ching

Ha... yeah.
RE: Really the second most popular? (none / 0) (#81)
by tonyunixmorgan on Tue Jun 04, 2002 at 03:18:44 PM EST

Excluding scientific or other religious works, though, the second most published work of all time is not Shakespeare's Folio nor Melville's Moby Dick.

[ Parent ]
Moa;s red book doesn't qualify (none / 0) (#86)
by Argentina on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 10:12:53 AM EST

..its not popular!

[ Parent ]
popularity x age (none / 0) (#87)
by C0vardeAn0nim0 on Thu Jun 20, 2002 at 08:49:20 AM EST

If we take in account when Don Quixote was writen and when The Lord of the Rings was writen, I belive  LotR is as popular (maybe more) than Cervante's work.

[ Parent ]
someone with a big nose who is not CDB (none / 0) (#56)
by pin0cchio on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:24:47 PM EST

Writers would have equal difficulty writing about a short nosed Cyrano de Bergerac, or someone with a big nose that is not.

Have you seen the movie Roxanne?

No wait, that's just an adaptation of the CDB story. Heck, Steve Martin's big-nosed character is even named "C. D. Bales."

Private Parts, by Howard Stern.

But that's autobiography.

The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi.

No, not the Walt Disney version.

about Roxanne (none / 0) (#58)
by SocratesGhost on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:48:24 PM EST

Actually, his name was C.D. Berg., and Roxanne is also the love interest in the play, too. There's times when whole lines are stolen word for word from the play, such as when there's times that he feels good and normal until he sees his "shadow on the garden wall" (or something to that effect). The scene where he lists 50 insults was the intro in the play and many of the insults were kept intact from the original. Steve Martin, who wrote the screenplay, openly admits the source of his inspiration.

One of my favorite plays of all time, btw. My favorite line being, "I need an army ripe for my defiance/Send away your dwarves, bring on your giants!"

Pinocchio came before CDB, btw, by a couple of years. The real life Cyrano that was the inspiration for the play had a normal sized nose. But your point is well taken. Hmm, maybe Cyrano deserves a little write up...

I drank what?

[ Parent ]
Cyrano's nose (none / 0) (#83)
by epepke on Wed Jun 05, 2002 at 07:40:14 PM EST

The real life Cyrano that was the inspiration for the play had a normal sized nose.

It was big. It wasn't a traditional Cyrano makeup job, but it was definitely a honker, bigger than Frank Zappa's. Also, the real Cyrano wrote a short story about a society on the moon where status was determined by nose size. Unlike in the play, the real Cyrano was reputed to be quite the ladies' man.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
shelf-life (pun intended) (none / 0) (#62)
by blisspix on Wed May 29, 2002 at 07:16:47 PM EST

I have always wondered why some books survived and some did not. already we know that there are 10000 books out of print and probably lost forever from the start of the 20th century. how many thousands of popular, pulp-of-the-day books of the 1800s are lost? we may never know.

in many cases I think luck has determined what survives, since so many books were pulped or destroyed at the time.

It is interesting that some very old works have remained, and some newer ones, particularly middle-english and renaissance ones have fallen out of favour. Perhaps that is due to a reluctance to translate middle-english as much as we have translated Latin?

Luck and intemporality (none / 0) (#68)
by Betcour on Thu May 30, 2002 at 02:54:27 AM EST

Don't forget that quite a lot of those books are like today : self-help books, school/ manuals, teaching book, religious books etc... all of which can get outdated pretty easely (I have here a book teaching how a young lady should behave and have good manners from before WWII, it's hilarious but totally useless today save for historians maybe)

[ Parent ]
I'm convinced that God put John Cleese on this... (none / 0) (#63)
by SIGFPE on Wed May 29, 2002 at 08:52:27 PM EST

...Earth to play Don Quixote. There are even rumours about it but I knew this was his destiny many many years ago. If it hasn't happened by time Cleese dies then from that day onwards I shan't believe in Him.
Terry Gilliam (none / 0) (#67)
by ucblockhead on Thu May 30, 2002 at 01:28:06 AM EST

Terry Gilliam was filming it with some french guy, but a horse through him (the french guy), he broke a hip, and because of scheduling, it killed the movie.

You have to admit that Terry Gilliam should be the directory for that film.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Terry Gilliam would be perfect (none / 0) (#71)
by SIGFPE on Thu May 30, 2002 at 11:27:19 AM EST

I hope it can be resurrected.
[ Parent ]
Lengthy wordy reading (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by meman2000 on Thu May 30, 2002 at 05:21:54 AM EST

As far as I can gather in a few minutes of thought, I recall two main reasons books of the previous century were so long.

First, they were written for an audience who had never seen the world described. If you wanted to tell a story that took place in the streets of Paris to farmers living in the Delaware countryside, you had to describe all kinds of details that we don't need anymore because of photographs and television.

Second, many publishers paid by the word, and writers were poor. This explains why we have some of the wordier Dickens classics that take paragraphs to describe things that could easily have been worked down to a sentence or two: they just needed the money.

Before radio and television, there wasn't much more to do than read and write. If you wonder why geniuses like Isaac Newton were so creative, a lot of it is because they could sit around for hours just thinking. Try to do that today and you'll get reprimanded for not working or doing homework (studying what they came up with, ironically). I try to read as much as I can, and I'm glad I really haven't turned on my TV much in the past few years except to watch a selected movie or two. However, as previously stated, there are some books which we simply can't fully understand because of differing cultures and times.

Reading and writing (none / 0) (#70)
by StrontiumDog on Thu May 30, 2002 at 11:01:02 AM EST

Before radio and television, there wasn't much more to do than read and write.

Except for working 14 hour days.

We wallow in a sea of leisure and free time these days. We surf k5 when we are supposed to be "working". There is really no comparison.

If you wonder why geniuses like Isaac Newton were so creative, a lot of it is because they could sit around for hours just thinking.

Damn, dude! To the dole queue! To the dole queue! Therein stand hundreds of new Einsteins!

[ Parent ]

Madness: lost in the translation (none / 0) (#72)
by epepke on Thu May 30, 2002 at 12:47:01 PM EST

There's a problem with saying that the Don Quixote character was a madman. In the book, he had lost his juicio, which is a term that is very difficult to translate. Losing your juicio is not quite as severe as losing your mind or becoming mad; it's more like losing your good sense or judgement.

A similar problem with translation plagues another great Spanish character, Don Juan. In El burlador de Sevilla, burlador cannot be easily translated into English. "Trickster" is probably as close as one can get, but it isn't really the trickster myth, either.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

The text, for those who haven't read (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by jxg on Thu May 30, 2002 at 11:14:06 PM EST

Here's the book, courtesy of Project Gutenberg:

  • http://promo.net/cgi-promo/pg/t9.cgi?entry=996

    [ Parent ]
  • file:// (1.00 / 1) (#79)
    by p3d0 on Sat Jun 01, 2002 at 10:10:29 AM EST

    Um, links that start with "file://" usually don't work too well over the internet.
    Patrick Doyle
    My comments do not reflect the opinions of my employer.
    huh? (none / 0) (#85)
    by /dev/trash on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 08:40:23 PM EST

    Which link?

    Updated 02/20/2004
    New Site
    [ Parent ]
    English class (none / 0) (#84)
    by jnemo131 on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 12:46:21 AM EST

    I remember reading this in a survey literature class in high school, so we only read portions of the book. But afterwards, half of the class, including myself, thought it so good that they went on and read the rest. Its underappreciated by the masses, but would be if only it were reintroduced.

    "I heard the droning in the shrine of the sea-monkey"
    -The Pixies
    Lost in the Translation | 89 comments (76 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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