Tuesday, August 2, 2011

#1: Dialogue of the Dogs, Miguel De Cervantes

The Dialogue of the Dogs
by Miguel De Cervantes
-born in Spain, 1547
-105 Pages
-translated by David Kipen
-more about Cervantes (via Goodreads)

Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
  - Miguel De Cervantes was born the son of an impoverished barber-surgeon.
  - He lost his left arm in battle in Italy at 23.
  - He was captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in Algiers.
  - He married a woman twenty years his junior, and was denied permission to emigrate to the New World.
  - He became a tax collector and was subsequently imprisoned at least twice for account "irregularities".
  - His writing was popular for its unprecedented use of vernacular Spanish.
  - He died on April 23, 1616--the same day as William Shakespeare.

Synopsis: (via Melville House)
The first talking-dog story in Western literature—from the writer generally acknowledged, alongside William Shakespeare, as the founding father of modern literature, no less?

Indeed, The Dialogue of the Dogs features, in a condensed, powerful version, all the traits the author of Don Quixote is famous for: It's a picaresque rich in bawdy humor, social satire, and fantasy, and it uses story tactics that were innovative at the time, such as the philandering husband who, given syphilis by his wife, is hospitalized. Late one feverish night he overhears the hospital's guard dogs telling each other their life's story—a wickedly ironic tale within the tale within the tale, wherein the two virtuous canines find themselves victim, time and again, to deceitful, corrupt humanity.

My Impressions:
As I expected, (based on when it was written,) the question of how many significant subtleties I was missing often popped into my head while reading.  Reminded me of Shakespeare in that sense--I could tell I was missing stuff!  What I find fascinating is how it seemed to be both simplistic and layered, both funny and serious, both creative and opinionated.

There was a lot to enjoy.  The little stories in this dialogue helped to shine a light on life at the time, making it seem just as real as life today.  The writing was bright and often funny.  I wonder how much of this has to do with the translator?  Words like "shenanigans" and "flimflammery" added to the fun.  There are so many great witty quotes from this small volume, that the intimidation factor I've associated with Don Quixote has been knocked down a fair bit.  I don't know that I'd say I was floored and amazed by The Dialogue of the Dogs, but I was certainly entertained and intrigued--it left me curious to know more, which is a good place to be.

Some Quotes:
She didn't quite paralyze you with her beauty, but enough that her conversation did the rest. 
They had fallen in with two hussies, more or less--really just less. 
This idea of making a living while doing nothing useful at all has a lot to recommend it. 
In short, feigned sanctity doesn't hurt anybody but the one who feigns it. 
...even lily-livered cowards are brave and reckless while in favor...


  1. Love the quotes! And I love the author's background info. Thanks. I've been seriously intimidated by Don Quixote too. I'm finding Virginia Woolf difficult to read.

  2. There were so many funny & witty parts that it really does make me curious about Don Quixote.

    I'm intimidated by Woolf because I've heard she can be difficult, but at least Jacob's Room is a somewhat smaller portion, right? Although sometimes a struggle is a struggle, regardless of the size.

  3. I never realized Cervantes led such a wild life! Or is that a life full of misfortune?

  4. Love the way you structured this post, the author info especially. And the quotes you pulled are perfect to illustrate the humor here. Every post I read is making it more difficult to choose the next book. Is there a bad novella in the series? :)

  5. I know, softdrink, some crazy stuff--I had no idea either. And somehow he managed to retain his sense of humor!

    Frances, that's part of the reason I knew I'd be better off deciding my reading order beforehand--I'm horrible at making decisions! Between that and my mad procrastination skills, I'd be doomed.


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!