Four centuries ago, Miguel de Cervantes, until then an obscure and unsuccessful writer and petty bureaucrat, completed the final volume of what was to become a keystone in the arch of aesthetic history: The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, a wild, intricate work detailing the adventures and rich inner life of an impoverished rural grandee. The book is a frequently mentioned contender for the greatest novel of all time, and is widely regarded as the origin point of literary modernity. Ilan Stavans, the eminent critic and translator, here makes the case for the book both as a guide to self-knowledge and an exploration of radical human possibility.
It has been described as the most influential novel in the history of the form. It is also among the bulkiest, longer even than David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. It is the steadiest of bestsellers, only outshined by the Bible (speaking of …
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Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the publisher of Restless Books, which just published the 400th anniversary edition of Don Quixote of La Mancha, with illustrations by Eko. His cultural history, Quixote: The Novel and the World, is just out from Norton.