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.