“If you’ve ever wondered what Don Quixote would say if he saw Man of La Mancha on Broadway, this is the book for you,” enthuses The Wall Street Journal in a review of Professor Ilan Stavans’ latest book, in which he and illustrator Roberto Weil reimagine Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century masterpiece as a graphic novel.
It’s a “rambunctious homage,” writes the WSJ reviewer, setting episodes from the 125-chapter book (which Stavans compresses into 30) alongside “capsule histories” of Cervantes and the novel’s reception, “as well as fourth-wall-crashing ruminations on its outsized cultural influence.”
The book is available not only in English but also in a Spanglish edition. (“Spanglish is the language of the future,” Stavans says. “It deserves its own Quixote.”)
No book has shaped me more,” says Stavans of the Cervantes masterpiece. He owns numerous editions in multiple languages.
The prologue introduces Stavans as an “inveterate reader” of Don Quixote, possessing a vast collection of editions in multiple languages. “No book,” he says, “has shaped me more.”
Growing up in Mexico City, Stavans read Archie, Batman, Condorito and Kaliman comic strips. “Only when I became ‘serious,’ in my late teens, did I switch to ‘real’ books,” he says. In that respect, the new work is a return to Stavans’ origins. “It’s also a way to pay tribute to a distinguished tradition of illustrators, among them Gustave Doré, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí,” he says.
Yet as a young man, Stavans rejected Don Quixote as “long-winded, presumptuous and a torture to follow,” he says. “But life has taught me patience. Like hundreds of others in a worldwide fan club, I now read it every year, to the point that I’m convinced I’m a character in it.”
Why read it annually? “More than a novel,” the professor says, “Don Quixote is an instruction manual on how to keep dreaming.”
Boutilier is the editor of Amherst magazine.