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Quichotte: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2019
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"The Fifth Doll" by Charlie N. Holmberg
The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical world where strange magic threatens a quiet village. | Learn more
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From the Publisher
“Quichotte is a novel that attempts to reflect back to us the total, crumbling insanity of living in a world unmoored from reality — that shows what happens when lies become as good as facts. . . . And if Quichotte drives you nuts, that’s fine. It’s meant to. It’s layered in such a way that you will lose yourself in the shifting reality of it.”—NPR
“Quichotte, Rushdie’s Trump-era reworking of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, is a frantically inventive take on ‘the Age of Anything-Can-Happen’ we’ve endured these last few years. It’s a concoction of narratives within narratives that blends the latest news headlines with apocalyptic flights of fancy. . . . Rushdie doesn’t offer much hope for our dispiriting times. But in a frayed and feverish way, he captures their flavor exactly.”—The Boston Globe
“Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte is a behemoth of a novel, and with reason. A postmodern dystopian tale, it tackles everything from global warming to the rise of white supremacism to the opioid crisis—which is to say, most of the ills of contemporary society. . . . There’s much that feels absorbing and true in Rushdie’s latest work. . . . The way Rushdie handles racial animus, too, is as incisive and complex as in his earlier fiction.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“A fantastical dream within a dream . . . a brilliant, funny, world-encompassing wonder . . . As [Rushdie] weaves the journeys of the two men nearer and nearer, sweeping up a full accounting of all the tragicomic horrors of modern American life in the process, these energies begin to collapse beautifully inward, like a dying star. His readers realize that they would happily follow Rushdie to the end of the world.”—Time
“[A] modern Don Quixote . . . Rushdie has created something that feels wholly original even if you’ve never heard of the hopelessly romantic Spanish knight-errant who sees danger in windmills. . . . Lucky for us, there are true storytellers and Rushdie is near the top of that list. If you haven’t read him before, this is a good book to start with—it’s fabulist and funny while revealing an awful lot about the world we live in today.”—Associated Press
“Rushdie’s Booker-longlisted fourteenth novel is certainly the work of a frisky imagination. . . . You can’t help being charmed by Rushdie’s largesse.”—The Guardian
“Hilarious by all accounts.”—Literary Hub
“[Quichotte] is Don Quixote for our time, a smart satire of every aspect of the contemporary culture. Witty, profound, tender, this love story shows a fiction master at his brilliant best.”—The Millions
“Rushdie’s novel is many things beyond just a Don Quixote retelling. It’s a satire on our contemporary fake-news, post-truth, Trumpian cultural moment, where the concept of reality itself is coming apart. It’s a sci-fi novel, a spy novel, a road trip novel, a work of magical realism. It’s a climate change parable, and an immigrant story in an era of anti-immigration feeling. It’s a love story that turns into a family drama. . . . Characters, narratives and worlds collide and come apart in spectacular fashion, while Rushdie maintains an exhilarating control over it all.”—The Independent
- Item Weight : 1.45 pounds
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 059313298X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0593132982
- Product Dimensions : 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Publisher : Random House; 1st Edition (September 3, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #75,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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So a few years after that and I was offered this review copy of Rushdie's new book, and I decided I'm a smart person now, and very well read, and I can certainly appreciate Salman Rushdie's obvious writing skills as who I am today.
The answer remains "no, I can not." That's entirely my fault - my interests are nonfiction or fairly straightforward fiction as opposed to experimental or stylistic fiction like Rushdie has generally been known for. No doubt one of his books would prepare me for his style in a slightly more accessible way but I haven't read it. I probably should give "Joseph Anton" a try.
So this reminded me of Marlon James "A Brief History of Seven Killings" that was hugely praised and award winning and that I totally couldn't connect with no matter how hard I tried. In a similar vein with this book, I tried to start at the beginning, then I tried to start in the middle, and I tried to jump around and I couldn't figure out what was going on, or even what I was supposed to be thinking.
Look - I did not give it any sort of truly honest effort. I gave up. It was too hard, too detailed, too stylized - it demanded an investment from the reader that I am simply not prepared to give. So if you think I sound like you, then you're probably not going to be the audience for this book.
But - if you're ANGRY at me, and you think I'm a big joke and an uneducated lazy rube - THEN maybe the book IS for you, because you're the type of reader who will go into Rushdie with your eyes wide open in a way that I didn't.
So I tried, I failed, maybe I'll try again one day, but this book's just not for me.
I'm giving it four stars because OBVIOUSLY he can write at a supreme quality - I would say every sentence went through ten drafts. Any oblique meaning on his part is totally intentional - he wants this to be an off-kilter Don Quitote experience...so it's no accident. It IS well-done, but it is NOT for casual readers or the hoi polloi like me.
There are two stories here – that of the author known as Brother, or his pseudonym Sam DuChamp, while the other is his own creation. Tired of mild success as a spy thriller writer, Brother embarks on his greatest literary achievement in writing about Quichotte and his quest for the love of a famous TV personality. Along the way Quichotte conjures a teenage son Sancho, they witnesses a fatal shooting, he reconciles with his sister, and they even encounters mastodon-transformed residents of a New Jersey town (very bizarre). “But Quichotte had warned [Sancho] that reality as they had understood the word would now cease to exist…”
Is Quichotte completely delusional in his pursuit of Salma R., the Indian actress turned Oprah-esque talk show host? Probably. But it was Salma’s back story that was even more intriguing because it led her to opioid addiction. Quichotte’s own cousin, Dr. Smile, is the head of the pharmaceutical behemoth responsible for inventing a powerful fentanyl spray that makes morphine seem like asprin. But prescribing pain medication to people like Salma who don’t really need it gets him into a lot of trouble. Add to the mix a tech billionaire with grand visions of saving the world from itself by sending humanity to alternate dimensions. The addition of a little science-fiction adds another layer of insanity to Quichotte’s already absurd quest.
While Quichotte’s story has magical realism aspects, Brother’s narrative is much more grounded, although often the two worlds mirror each other since Brother is using elements from his own life to create Quichotte. He also reconciles with his sister, but the consequences of their reunion are much more tragic. There’s a little side-plot with his own estranged son, which allows him to have his own quasi-spiritual journey.
As a whole, the book was a strange mash-up of genres and plots. It was occasionally goofy, often philosophic, and always smart. There were so many little nudge-nudge wink-winks throughout that I really had to pay attention to subtle connections. No doubt Rushdie is incredibly clever, but this book’s density and complexity might not appeal to everyone. Still, I enjoyed the quests of both Quichotte and Brother.
Top reviews from other countries
It contains both novel and meta novel. The core story clearly has its origins in Cervantes, as Rushdie tells the story of an expatriate indian, Quichotte, living in America as he embarks on a journey across the continent with his imaginary son in search of his beloved, who has the self referential name of Salma R. The tale doesn't, however, restrict itself to Don Quixote, referencing everything from Ionesco to Disney's Pinocchio.
As Quichotte travels, his story is entwined with that of the author writing him. Through this device Rushdie explores the autobiographical elements of the writers craft as aspects of his real life (and one suspects also Rushdie's own) are reflected in his hero's struggles. Indeed Rushdie himself occasionally appears in the novel's shadows.
This meta level perhaps gives the book a slightly problematic note. In the story of Quichotte, the author makes extensive use of metaphor and magical realism. In the story of the author, Rushdie explains the meaning of such symbolism in pretty clumsy terms.
The real strength of the book is its enormous breadth and depth. It is book which is absolutely crammed with ideas. It is a book which probably needs to be held shut with heavy duty elastic bands to prevent the contents from escaping. The physical and emotional journeys of Quichotte and the Author enable them to explore aging, death, grieving, filial estrangement, parental abuse, parental love, climate change, the expatriate experience, the asian experience in post 911 America, celebrity culture, increasing political xenophobia, the silicon valley culture, and on and on and on.
The exploration of racism is handled cleverly. Quichotte and Sancho experience a form of stereotypical redneck xenophobia, being driven out of successive towns, accused of being Islamic terrorists. When a similar thing happens to the Author and son, there is a more hopeful picture of the hatred being more isolated, with the general public being more decent. This seems to be a call to pay less attention to sensationalism, and more to the essential decency of ordinary people.
At the heart of it all, it helps that Rushdie is a beautiful writer, and this book is peppered with sentences so stunningly well constructed that I felt myself stopped in my tracks, smiling at the audacity.
That audacity stretches to genre busting. I have often thought of magical realism as the literary cousin of fantasy and even sci-fi. Here Rushdie joyfully tramples over any such artificial distinction and gleefully mixes an exploration of the author's relationship with his creation with a a Sci Fi story akin to Baxter and Pratchett's Long Earth books. (Although Rushdie himself credits Arthur C Clarke.)
Another possible criticism is one that might be applied to Rushdie's entire body of work, that this is all just too clever for its own good, but after a short consideration I decided that I don't care, this is just such a huge, ambitious, intelligent entertainment that I lost myself in the sheer enjoyment of reading it.
Quichotte is a unique book in every sense of the word. It's a modern take on Don Quixote, a novel-within-a novel where the main plot and the subplots, the main characters and the secondary ones intersect and reflect each other in an endless cycle of similarities.
The text is dense and took me a rather long time to sort everything together, but the reading experience as a whole is more than fulfilling and well worthwhile. I also loved all the pop culture references and even the rather fantastical elements outstretching reality.
This is a thought provoking look on modern day American from the lens of an ordinary observant. Highly recommended.
Thanks Netgalley, Random House, and author Salman Rushdie for a chance to review this epic of a book.