Review 1818: Quichotte

I was fairly sure I was going to hate Quichotte. I did not much like Midnight’s Children or Don Quixote for that matter, which Quichotte retells. However, this novel is part of my Booker project, so I opened it with hope.

Quichotte is Ismail Smile, an elderly consumer of all things TV who becomes infatuated with Salma R, a young TV star. He decides to go on a quest to earn the love of his beloved. This is a road trip, and for a partner he takes Sancho, his imaginary son. To add another layer, Quichotte is himself an imaginary character, created by Brother, a writer of spy novels who has decided to change his genre.

This novel is one full of circumlocution. As we meet each character—and we meet a lot of them—we go off on the tangent of that person’s life story. Further, there are lots of subplots, for example, the one about Smile’s cousin and employer, whose pharmaceutical company has developed a drug even more dangerous than OxyContin and who has himself developed a similar model to that of the makers of Oxy, delivering it in huge quantities to small rural communities.

The genre for this novel is fantasy and of course satire. Fantasy is not my genre, and although I wouldn’t have thought the same was true about satire, I have not enjoyed the satirical entries on the various shortlists. They all feel the same to me: ponderous, overblown, and written by old men. Definitely lacking subtlety. Even the reviewer from The Guardian remarked that the book was funny but not as funny as Rushdie thought it was. That is exactly how I feel about it, except I didn’t think it was very funny. I sensed Rushdie winking all the time.

Still, I was enjoying parts of the novel, although it didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Then Sancho decided he wanted to be a real boy, and guess who popped up? Jiminy Cricket. At that point I had to restrain myself from throwing the book across the room (only because it was a library book), and I stopped reading.

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4 thoughts on “Review 1818: Quichotte

  1. Christine March 14, 2022 / 1:06 pm

    I have Midnight’s Children on my Classics Club list. I am determined, but not excited, to read it. I’ve never read anything by Rushdie before. The premise of this book sounds irredeemably terrible to me.

    • whatmeread March 14, 2022 / 1:43 pm

      I might like Midnight’s Children better if I read it now. I read it about 20 years ago, and I just wasn’t expecting what I got.

  2. FictionFan March 14, 2022 / 4:02 pm

    Ha! I’ve only read two of his books. One I loved – Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights – and the other affected me the way this one affected you. It also wasn’t nearly as funny as Rushdie thought it was and it also ended up abandoned! I might try some of his earlier stuff one day, but I’m in no rush…

    • whatmeread March 14, 2022 / 4:23 pm

      Hmm, if I have occasion to read him again, maybe I’ll look for that book.

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