Don Quixote, the greatest joke in literary history

At the beginning of modern fiction is a satire: Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”. It tells the story of a man who wants the good old days back – and would never choose AfD.

She will still ride in 400 years at windmills, as they rode for the first time at windmills 400 years ago: The rail-thin Don Quixote and Sancho Panza thick are immortal and will remain so as long as is to be read.

About 15 years ago organized the Swedish Academy and a Norwegian book club – two institutions of literary life, their intellectual reputations have now almost approximated – a strange Literaturjux: They invited 100 renowned authors and authors one to elect the 100 most important works of world literature. In first place, Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote of the Mancha” far and away invited. Why is that?

That no one today can write a novel without being consciously or unconsciously in debt and usually in the shadow of Cervantes. That at the beginning of modern novel literature is a satire on the currently fashionable chivalric novels, is an inside joke of literary history.

“Forgive me, dear friend”

In this book, we encounter two men who have fallen out of time: they live in an era of gunpowder, guns, arquebus and muskets, the anonymous mass death on the battlefields of Europe; but they think, act and feel according to a moral code of traveling chivalry, an epoch which dates back several centuries.

However, the time in which knights collide in a fair duel, in which the evolution of weapons technology still kept pace with the evolution of the concept of honor, has two major disadvantages: First, it is long over the action period of “Don Quixote”; second and worse, it never existed because it is a literary phantasm.

“Forgive me, dear friend, that by my guilt you must have seemed as crazy as I, infecting you with my own insanity, that there were knights in the world, and giving,” says Don Quixote to his squire, Sancho Panza at the end of the novel on the deathbed.

Victory over the reality

Reading Cervantes means learning to tolerate ambiguities. The giants are windmills in truth? Far from it, the windmills are enchanted giants, Don Quixote teaches us! Again and again Cervantes staged the clash of ideal and reality – only blurred in the course of the novel, the border between the two so much that just not the clumsy reality principle continuously carries the victory.

In the second part, for example, in the form of the Duke and the Duchess, we encounter figures that Sancho Panza and his Lord already know, because they have already read Part One: this is what modern literature scholars call autoreferentiality.

Mario Vargas Llosa , arguably the most important, but certainly the most educated living Spanish-speaking writer of our time, has recently pointed out that Don Quixote is not a reactionary. Don Quixote would not choose AfD.

The world between two lids

The knight of the sad figure is not a dying man who longs for a time he has never experienced. No nostalgic man falls in love with an irretrievable past. In contrast, the society in which Don Quixote wishes to live bears utopian traits: never existed outside the world between two book covers. Don Quixote does not long for the world of the High Middle Ages, but for the world of the White Knight “Tirant lo Blanc” and “Amadis of Gaul” and their epigones.

How literature emerges, how it affects its readers and what interactions exist between life and literature: this is what “Don Quixote de la Mancha” tells. Thinking about the Quixote never stops.