…not that fussy 17th century argot.
Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is a classic — and even if a lot of people have not read it, they know about the tale of the chivalrous man of La Mancha tilting at windmills (mostly because of this). A new “light” version of the novel has been published in Spain, updating the 17th century Spanish into a modern vernacular. It is a huge hit and raced up the bestseller lists, but it has caused controversy. One academic has described it as “a crime against literature” and he is appalled that readers would choose it over the original. “I ask the booksellers in Madrid and they tell me no one buys Cervantes’ original novel anymore because readers prefer the ‘light’ version … you cannot twist the flavor of the words of the greatest writer in our language,” says David Felipe Arranz.
Others, though, point out that the novel is actually more popular outside Spain, and that a modern version will help Spaniards understand and appreciate their greatest writer. “Nine out of every 10 people who read Cervantes’s novel today are outside Spain. And a large portion of those readers access it in translation,” says Don Quixote scholar Ilan Stavans. “Was there a need for a modern translation, then? Of course there was. Shakespeare is updated, adapted, modernized, and otherwise rewritten all the time and nobody makes a fuss. Those approaches, in my eyes, are a tribute, a celebration, an acknowledgment of the enormous debt we owe him.” Maybe the popularity of this new edition of the novel will help Terry Gilliam get his much-troubled film version off the ground.