More of a reference than a guide, Gurgen’s book dissects the comedic classic.
Don Quixote still reigns as a singular literary masterpiece. So who could fault Gurgen (True Understanding in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, 2012) for his labor of devotion? Though Don Quixote’s many jokes, memorable episodes and characters are timeless, some may pass over the heads of readers. To help navigate the classic, Gurgen’s work takes the form of a Don Quixote encyclopedia with several independent sections: a large character dictionary; a dictionary of relationships among characters and groups; an extensive section on the multiple themes; a page of Latin translations; and odds and ends, such as reproductions of a few of the tome’s poems and jokes. These last sections are least useful, especially where they crib directly from the text; a chapter on how to use the book and an index would help readers who need a guide to navigate the guide. Still, the character dictionary is thorough and includes many easily forgotten details in a digestible format. For instance, Gurgen reminds us of Don Quixote’s medical history, “Besides suffering from kidney trouble, Don Quixote has never had any teeth extracted, nor have any fallen out or been destroyed by decay or infection.” His list of injuries runs nearly a page, from his shoulder dislocation by windmill to his trampling by a herd of pigs. The chapter’s thoroughness, however, provides spoilers and deflates some of the classic’s humor. Additionally, the structure of the book, which doesn’t follow that of the classic, may disappoint those looking for a chapter-by-chapter key to Cervantes, but Gurgen’s discussions of and passion for Don Quixote’s themes and players offer much to consider.
Spoils a few punch lines but keeps track of the cast so readers don’t have to.