Friday, July 13, 2007

Chess in Don Quixote

Redated from last August

I am reading Don Quixote. It is a beautiful, hilarious, brilliant masterpiece. If you haven't read it, drop everything and start now. The new translation by Edith Grossman is excellent. It is a quite readable book, and Grossman does a good job explaining historical allusions in the footnotes. It makes the perfect vacation or bedtime reading.

Since the Knights Errant are following in Don Quixote's footsteps, I thought it only fitting to include the one and only mention of the game of chess in the novel. It comes from Part II, Chapter XII. Its wit and charm are representative of the work as a whole:
[Don Quixote said to Sancho Panza], "Come, tell me, hast thou not seen a play acted in which kings, emperors, pontiffs, knights, ladies, and diverse other personages were introduced? One plays the villain, another the knave, this one the merchant, that the soldier, one the sharp-witted fool, another the foolish lover; and when the play is over, and they have put off the dresses they wore in it, all the actors become equal."

"Yes, I have seen that," said Sancho.

"Well then," said Don Quixote, "the same thing happens in the comedy and life of this world, where some play emperors, others popes, and, in short, all the characters that can be brought into a play; but when it is over, that is to say when life ends, death strips them all of the garments that distinguish one from the other, and all are equal in the grave."

"A fine comparison!" said Sancho; "though not so new but that I have heard it many and many a time, as well as that other one of the game of chess; how, so long as the game lasts, each piece has its own particular role, and when the game is finished they are all mixed, jumbled up and shaken together, and stowed away in the bag, which is much like ending life in the grave."

"Thou art growing less doltish and more shrewd every day, Sancho," said Don Quixote.

"Ay," said Sancho; "it must be that some of your worship's shrewdness sticks to me; land that, of itself, is barren and dry, will come to yield good fruit if you dung it and till it; what I mean is that your worship's conversation has been the dung that has fallen on the barren soil of my dry wit, and the time I have been in your service and society has been the tillage; and with the help of this I hope to yield fruit in abundance that will not fall away or slide from those paths of good breeding that your worship has made in my parched understanding."


Blogger rockyrook said...

Great quote from the book ... I had bookmarked that part of the book when I read it. There are a few more quotes I plan on using for my blog as I complete my quest with the 7 circles.

In fact, there is one chapter where Quixote describes descending into a lake and it perfectly "fits" with the 7 circles ... I'll be posting that part to my blog soon.

I just finished reading Don Quixote a couple of weeks ago. I started reading it after reading Don De La Maza's blog. I always heard it was a good read, but never quite had enough desire to plough through it. So I finally decided to read it ... and I'm glad I did ... I really enjoyed the book. I read Grossman's version too.

Enjoy your read too!

8/22/2006 03:46:00 PM  
Blogger Edwin 'dutchdefence' Meyer said...

I was planning on reading Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" instead.

8/22/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger transformation said...

i have had sun tzu near me for years, and read a line at a time. it is better than castinada, or musashi, or lao tzu. on wall street, sun tzu was a big deal. not sure how clausvitz on war compares... dk

8/23/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

if ever you make it down to boston during spring summer let me know.
I'll blow off work and we can drink coffee and play chess at Harvard square.

No Queen Pawn openings allowed.

8/24/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tak: excellent. I'll be sure to let you know.

8/24/2006 06:23:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

I rather like the Cervantes's rather self-reflective opening chapter on reading novels of adventure, which makes a good comparison with studying chess and blogging... Both can take you away from reality and both seem like crazy time-wasting activities to outsiders. And there is some sense in which chess games are like adventure novels ("romances"). We recount the games of the past practically as though they were a form of combat between knights, some of whom (especially the world champions) grow in legend....

8/26/2006 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger takchess said...

off topic but I saw this recent post on the gpa and thought you would find interesting

8/27/2006 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Ed Doyle said...

Lovely quote

very egalitarian.

9/02/2006 07:01:00 AM  

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