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Two Good, Free "Quixote" Kindle Options
on January 28, 2017
There's only one original "Quixote", but there are literally dozens of translations, and an almost infinite number of commentaries about the quality, integrity and appeal of those various translations. But, if you would just like to sit down with a readable and fairly mainstream version there are two free Kindle volumes that offer you a happy choice.
The four "major" translations that are referenced over and over again are by Smollett, Grossman, Putnam, and Raffel. (There are roughly a dozen "minor" but well known and vigorously defended or reviled others.) But, the first translation, which was published in 1612, within just seven years of the release of "Quixote" itself, was by Thomas Shelton. The most popular translation after that, until the "modern" era, was Ormsby's 1885 version.
Happily, Kindle offers a free copy of Ormsby's version. It also offers a kindleunlimited, (and sometimes free as a promotion), copy of Gerald Davis' reworking of the Shelton version.
Some people favor Raffel, (although faulted for being too oversimplified), or Putnam, (faulted for being too colloquial). Grossman is the most modern, but is frequently criticized for taking great liberties and being almost purposefully prolix and obscure. Of course, each translator brought his or her own sense of style, and own sense of the work, to the project, and all of them felt fairly free to put their own authorial stamp on the book. Ormsby is highly regarded because of his scholarly effort to achieve "accuracy". The Davis book is highly regarded, although sometimes relegated to a niche position, because of the translator's attempt to find a middle ground between the Shelton original and a modern reader's sensibilities.
This Kindle Ormsby is the 1885 version, not the Norton update of 1981. But that's fine, since the update modernized some language but didn't change the text dramatically. As a bare public domain version you don't get notes, footnotes, modern annotations and the like. You do, however, get the full text, include Ormsby's analysis of prior translations. The book is formatted well enough and has a basic table of contents. It is readable, if unadorned.
The Kindleunlimited Davis is also barebones, although there is a nice preface by Davis. Again, the formatting and type editing is fine and unfussy. It is also perfectly readable.
I prefer the Davis version, but that really is a matter of personal taste. It is nice to be able to suggest that not only are these two freebies adequate, they do indeed have an honorable place amongst all of the best translations. As a consequence you do not have to lower your standards, or accept an inferior translation, when selecting one of these freebies as your text of choice.
Surprisingly, each Kindle version can be augmented, for a few dollars, with Audible Narration. The Ormsby narration is a bit more energetic, the Davis narration is more solemn. I only sampled them, but both seemed fairly engaging.
Please note, because there are so many editions of each and all of these books, and because Amazon is not at its best when mixing and matching books, editions, and reviews, it's important to mention which books this review refers to. The kindleunlimited Davis displays a white cover and a pencil or engraved image of Don Quixote framed in yellow. It clearly states that it is "The New Translation By Gerald J. Davis". The free Ormsby sports the generic Amazon public domain cover, in brown and buff. Don't mistakenly buy some expensive "collectible" mass market copy, unless that's what you want.