Don Quijote: The Impossible Truth

Don Quijote de la Mancha is the impossible truth: the book is a fiction, a lie, and yet it is true. Truer than a non-fiction biography of Cervantes. We would only read such a bio because we love our mad knight-errant and his earthy squire, Sancho Panza. The novel tells us much more about the real Cervantes than any bio could every do: valet, soldier, ransomed by pirates, soldier, tax collector, convict (jailed for discrepancies  in the accounts while tax collector), poet, playwright, and the first modern novelist.

Don Quijote tells us more. Our author, driven mad by the books he read, believed in truth, justice, honor and love then broke his head against the wall of reality and became deeply disillusioned but found a way to parody his idealism and do it honor at the same time. Cervantes idealism and realism are represented by his two characters: Sancho Panza and Don Quijote. The picture I have on my page shows a portrait of Cervantes made up of another picture of the knight-errant and his squire (a metapainting). Cervantes was given a choice: idealism or realism and he chose both.

Whenever you have a binary choice there are actually five possibilities, not two: A, B, both, neither or all of the above. Is the great novel true or false? Both: it is fiction but true to Cervantes’ experience, very true for the modern experience. (As for the modern experience, I can only really speak of my own. I am driven idealistically to look for truth, an impossible task, a Quixotic quest.) Neither, it’s not false, nor is it true. All of the above.

(For more on the construction of truth and Don Qujote (or Don Quixote as we spell it in English), read my book Narrative Madness, available at or on Amazon, or check out my posts How to Sound like an Author of Great Reading, Learning and Eloquence: A Quixotic Preface and Who Wrote Don Quixote?)

4 thoughts on “Don Quijote: The Impossible Truth”

  1. “Don Quijote de la Mancha is the impossible truth: the book is a fiction, a lie, and yet it is true. Truer than a non-fiction biography of Cervantes.”

    Is this statement a.)True or b.)False?

    (a) is Correct: The book Don Quijote is truer than the biography. Yet there are many truths in the biography that someone could determine by reading the book. One could count all the truths in each to see which has more.

    (b) is Correct The biography is truer than the book. If you count the number of truths in each you will probably find more in the biography. However the biography might not convey some of the truths about Cervantes as well as the book.

    Both (a) and (b) are correct: They both correct in some aspects. The book conveys some truths the biography cannot convey very well. The biography probably has a greater number of truths.

    Neither (a) nor (b) are correct: They are both wrong in some ways.

    Final Answer That I Choose: (All of the Above)


    p.s. With this type of thinking can you every pick anything but “All of the Above” 🙂

  2. Don Quixote is a unique novel because it discusses itself within the pages of itself. For example, when an old notebook of the history of Don Quixote is found at a bazaar in Toledo a Catholic Cannon reminds us that chivalry books do not follow the rules of Aristotelian writing. Also when Cide Hamete El Benengeli, the book’s narrator, analyzes Don Quixote’s artistic genres he shows a concern for literature and language that signals Don Quixote’s Metafictionality. Given Don Quixote’s self-reflexive nature the book’s author becomes a character in the story who steps in-and-out of the tale. Also, during the Captive Captain’s tale, we are told that Miguel Cervantes was the only man who emerged unscathed from his slavery. By referring to the author throughout the story, Don Quixote does not let the reader forget that he is reading a fictional work. Another feature which defines Don Quixote as a work of Metafiction is that it mentions several works of fiction. For example, during the inquisition of Don Quixote’s library, Cervantes’s Galatea is retained for its original style. Later, when the innkeeper produces Rinconete and Cortadillo, another story by Cervantes, a local priest decides to read The Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity instead. Finally, since Don Quixote tends to call attention to itself as a literary artifact characters within the story are acutely aware that they are in a work of fiction. In brief, since Don Quixote self-consciously evaluates itself throughout its’ story-telling it is fiction about fiction, or Metafictional in nature.

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