Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Fiction | Contemporary | Magical Realism
Published by Random House
Released September 3rd, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Note: I received a free ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.
“Every quest takes place in both the sphere of the actual, which is what maps reveal to us, and in the sphere of the symbolic, for which the only maps are the unseen ones in our heads.”
There’s nobody else in the world who writes quite like Salman Rushdie. No matter what topic he’s writing about or which of his characters the words are coming from, his words are poetic and profound.
My brother was the person who introduced me to Rushdie and inspired me to read The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a book about a famous singer lost after an earthquake. I still consider that novel one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read. I quickly followed that up with what has become my favorite Rushdie novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
Quichotte is a story told from the point of view of Sam DuChamp, author of spy thrillers. Within that story, we also meet the characters of the newest book that DuChamp is writing, about a character named Quichotte.
Quichotte is a former salesman obsessed with television, particularly a TV personality named Miss Salma R. Quichotte is in love with her, and in order to meet her and have her reciprocate those feelings, he travels through “seven valleys” to make her more attainable and himself more worthy.
I don’t want to say too much more about the plot because I really think that this is a book that you need to go into not knowing too much about it. I love this part of Random House’s official synopsis for the story because it’s what initially made me want to read this novel:
Just as Cervantes wrote Don Quixote to satirize the culture of his time, Rushdie takes the reader on a wild ride through a country on the verge of moral and spiritual collapse. And with the kind of storytelling magic that is the hallmark of Rushdie’s work, the fully realized lives of DuChamp and Quichotte intertwine in a profoundly human quest for love and a wickedly entertaining portrait of an age in which fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.
A quick note before getting into my thoughts: You do not need to read Don Quixote in order to read Quichotte.
The story carried me along, enchanting and baffling me at the same time. Rushdie’s talent for weaving the fantastical with what’s real is easy to see here, just as it is in many of his other novels.
While Quichotte isn’t my favorite novel of Rushdie’s that I’ve read, I enjoyed the story very much and rated it a high four stars. I loved the dual narratives. Sam DuChamp is going through a midlife crisis while telling a story through Quichotte, a semi-autobiographical character on a quest for love.
The story takes on a variety of topics related to familial and romantic relationships, such as that between Quichotte and his imaginary yet real son. Estrangement, sexual abuse, drugs, and more are touched on, in a manner that is well done and serves to make the characters relatable. Their backstories also explain a lot about their personalities when we meet them in the story as well as their motivations. Few of the characters are good, they all have dark sides and make questionable decisions.
There were passages in this book that got a little bit repetitive. It was definitely a stylistic choice made consciously by Rushdie, which I was fine with the first few times I encountered it, but eventually, I started to dread sentences like this one:
“He devoured morning shows, daytime shows, late-night talk shows, soaps, situation comedies, Lifetime Movies, hospital dramas, police series, vampire and zombie serials, the dramas of housewives from Atlanta, New Jersey, Beverly Hills and New York, the romances and quarrels of hotel-fortune princesses and self-styled shahs, the cavortings of individuals made famous by happy nudities, the fifteen minutes of fame accorded to young persons with large social media followings on account of their plastic-surgery acquisition of a third breast or their post-rib-removal figures that mimicked the impossible shape of the Mattel company’s Barbie doll, or even, more simply, their ability to catch giant carp in picturesque settings while wearing only the tiniest of string bikinis; as well as singing competitions, cooking competitions, competitions for business propositions, competitions for business apprenticeships, competitions between remote-controlled monster vehicles, fashion competitions, competitions for the affections of both bachelors and bachelorettes, baseball games, basketball games, football games, wrestling bouts, kickboxing bouts, extreme sports programming and, of course, beauty contests.”
See what I mean?
This novel was very much worth the time it took me to read it. It’s by no means a short book, and due to passages like the one I shared above, at times it can be a bit daunting. It was wonderful, and I was enchanted by the settings, characters, storytelling, and Rushdie’s writing style.
I’m not sure if I would recommend Quichotte to a reader who will be reading Salman Rushdie for the first time. Instead, maybe read The Ground Beneath Her Feet or Midnight’s Children. However, if you have read any of Rushdie’s other works and found yourself loving his witty, fantastical, surrealist stories, definitely read Quichotte.