Thursday, April 28, 2005

The interplay between reality and fantasy

The day Quixote and Sancho rode out from their unnamed village, a fictional
blueprint came to life. Don Quixote is our prototypical text, the first story to
emerge out of a self-awareness of its own fictional form, to take as its theme
the gap between appearance and reality; to be, in our terms, modern. It is to
the modern novel what Sigmund Freud is to psychoanalysis. Freud, in fact, was an
admirer of Cervantes: in the summer of 1883 he confessed to his fiancée Martha
Bernays that he was more interested in Don Quixote than in brain anatomy. He
found Quixote's dialogues with Sancho Panza significant for the lesson they
offered of the need both to discriminate between reality and fantasy and to
understand their interplay. He expressed an oddly romantic sympathy for
Quixote's idealism: "Once we were all noble knights passing through the world
caught in a dream, misinterpreting the simplest things, magnifying commonplaces
into something noble and rare, and thereby cutting a sad figure… we men always
read with respect about what we once were and in part still remain." (Prospect)

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