Meditations on Quixote is the first major work Jose Ortega y Gasset published in Spain; as such, the reader will stumble across several infant notions that were later subjected to major philosophical treatments by Ortega. Naturally, therefore, this book is often passed over and dismissed. However, I believe it holds within its pages a very mature, coherent argument. It should be noted that Don Quixote is not actually the central focus of these meditations. Rather, Ortega only delves into Cervantes's great novel during the second half of the book (the "first" meditation), using that knight of rueful countenance to clarify his analysis. I will not attempt to explain the philosophy presented in this book, as I feel there is a reason it takes hundreds of pages to express these concepts. It is such with all philosophy; think of it as a food - I can compress all the contents of a five-star dinner into a dense pill and give that to you, but it would not serve justice to the original pieces. Having said that, I can certainly relay (as another reviewer has) the famous expression "I am myself and my circumstance." Ortega puts significance into what this "circumstance" is composed of, mentally dividing the material things in life and their deeper meaning, explaining that this deeper meaning is just as real as the material surface. He then leads into the concept of man as a hero via his own will ("the will to be oneself is heroism"), focusing on Don Quixote, and modern literature in general (as opposed the ideal epics of old), as examples. Julián Marías makes interesting notes throughout. Recommended!
The great Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset left many followers, some of them also important thinkers, like Julian Marias. But most are common people who became much more educated and civilized persons by reading his wonderful books. Ortega was one of the rare species of philosophers who expresse his ideas in a very clear prose. Others in this line are Plato and Augustine, or Bertrand Russell, an Ortega contemporary. Meditations on Quixote is a small book where the master strives to give a synthesis of his thought. A synthesis of this synthesis could be given by two of his phrases: "Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia" (I am myself and my circumstance) and " I only offer a way of considering things" (modus res considerandi). A great philosopher and a great writer. His was my main intellectual influence.