Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

7.30.2021: Valeria Explains Why Reading El Quijote Wasn’t So Bad After All

I try to remember when was the first time I had ever heard about Don Quijote de La Mancha, and, truth is, I don’t remember at all. It is one of those things that just sort of existed around me. The farthest back I can go to is when I was eight years old. I knew it was a person, perhaps someone relevant from our history. But, “was he Mexican?” I used to wonder.  I’d see movie posters for a children’s movie about him: I didn’t like how the animation looked so I never watched it. “Don Quijote y su fiel amigo Sancho Panza” (Don Quijote and his loyal friend, Sancho Panza), I had heard somewhere.  “Hmm,” I’d think. “Who is this Don Quijote, what did he do, and who was this friend of his with such a funny name?”

     Let’s look forward to many years laterーmaybe seven. Talking to my mom about her years in high school and the types of reading she had to do, she said something that immediately caught my attention: “Oh! El Quijote era larguísimo y difícil.” Oh! Don Quijote was so long and hard to read.” I was in shock. Don Quijote was a book; Don Quijote de La Mancha was the main character in the book. Not just that! It was a book written by a Spanish author, so, no, it was never Mexican nor did it have anything to do with Mexico, and it had been written more than four hundred years ago! I felt… dumb. 

My senior year in high school, my Spanish teacher mentioned El Quijote a couple of times, the greatness of its author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and how he was considered the Shakespeare of Spanish literature. He also mentioned how it wasn’t quite an easy read; it took time and effort. But we never got to read it in his class, and I was starting to believe I’d have to read it on my own time. Just imagine what a sin it would be if I, a prospective Spanish teacher, had never read one of the most important and recognized books in Spanish literature! Truth is, I was scared of not understanding it, of getting bored out of my mind because of the old language used in it, of it being too long and never-ending that I’d come to a point where, out of frustration, I’d just give up. 

The time to finally read this masterpiece came last Fall semester, as it was part of the curriculum for one of my Spanish courses here at UIC. While we did not have to read both books (Volumes I & II, yes there are two) in their entirety, the selections the professor made were extensive and, as he said, were the most important to our course. I was dreading having to read El Quijote after everything I had heard about it before. I thought I’d have to spend countless hours re-reading the same passages, having trouble completing the assignments and just completely failing to read one of the most celebrated works of art in Spanish literature. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I picked up the book and started reading that one first chapter, and I found myself trapped and fascinated by the story of a very peculiar gentleman who, after reading so many chivalry books, proclaims himself a knight  and sets out on various adventures encountering multiple people and very interesting scenarios. After finishing reading all the  assigned chapters, I found myself surprised at the fact that, after all I had heard about this piece of literature and after all my fear of not being able to read it and fully understand it, I found myself enjoying it. I finally, truly know who Don Quijote is and what a wonderful character he is. But most importantly, I now truly understand the significance of the ever-acclaimed, first ever modern novel. As I had a good experience reading this masterpiece, I am willing to read more and more Spanish literature that may be seen as “hard to read” or “too old to understand the language used”, because I’d be missing out on such wonderful stories and on the works of acclaimed and influential authors who have immensely contributed to literature.