The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World - William Egginton

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.


                One of my dirty secrets is that I have never read all of Don Quixote.  I have read parts at various points since I was about seven or eight.  I have read some of Cervantes other work.  But all of Don Quixote, nope.


                But after reading this book, I think I am going to change that.


                Egginton’s book about one of the most famous books in the world, argues, quite persuasively that Don Quixote was far more revolutionary than people give it credit for. 


                While Egginton does an excellent job at proving his thesis, what also comes across is his love for the book as well as his fascination with Cervantes.   It’s hard not to feel excited about the book after Egginton’s book.


                It is difficult not to see the humor in DQ, even without having read the whole book.  Egginton makes an argument for a more subtle and important reading.  He writes, “Cervantes’s narratives function by constantly leading us to question the intent behind the descriptions, by pointing to the difference between the masks the characters show to one another and the internal feelings and emotions that animate them”.    This is something that carries over to almost every novel and writer afterwards.  It is now that we have in good fiction moved beyond types.


                And this is part of Egginton’s contention that whether or not Cervantes knew it, he was writing in rejection of Aristotle and the other critics, what was then canon.  Egginton best sums this up when he writes, “Boccaccio’s characters end at the limits of what they can see; Cervantes’s begin there”.  Furthermore, Egginton links Cervantes to the modern day, for the man’s humor, so Egginton, is of the human race as opposed to of a certain time.


                Poop jokes rule the world.


                True, that.


                If anything, Egginton’s book proves that Cervantes is human and that he is great writer because he remembers that important fact.


                Egginton’s book isn’t so much a biography or even a literary biography, but a history that becomes for pages and pages, a love letter that isn’t addressed to the book or to the author, but to the reader.