O celebrated Author! O fortunate Don Quixote! O famous Dulcinea! O comical Sancho Panza! Together and separately may you live an infinite number of years, bringing pleasure and widespread diversion to the living.
—Cervantes, Don Quixote, II, 40

Don Quixote is the mother of all novels. Or as Lionel Trilling put it, “All prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote.” That theme is the clash between what we think, or imagine, or wish is so, and what is so. The clash is a matter of differing perspectives: personal, intellectual, class, cultural, historical. The consciousness of perspective—that I see things this way and you see things that way—is a form of self-consciousness. It develops in the riper stages of a civilization, if it ever develops. Don Quixote is one marker of that development in ours. Perspective consciousness is an advance...


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