Review of Hunt Henion, THE DON Q POINT OF VIEW, Eureka (Montana): SHIFT AWARENESS BOOKS, 2008, 148 pp., 1SBN: 978-0-9822054-19, http://www.shiftAwareness.com
Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’ world-famous novel, has offered generations of entranced readers a world where the boundaries between imagination and reality are porous, ever-changing, and repeatedly crossed. In the ninth chapter of Part I, Cervantes himself claims the book is ‘really’ a translation from an author writing in Arabic, Cide Hamete Benengeli; in the third chapter of Part II, the Don and Sancho are told about a book that is none other than the first part of Cervantes’ novel featuring themselves. Readers have been similarly imaginative. In the American literary tradition, Washington Irving tells of a Spanish countryman who solemnly believes Sancho and the Don to be real people; in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer spins yarns of elephants and diamonds and tells a sceptical Huck: “if I wasn’t so ignorant, but had read a book called “Don Quixote”, I would know without asking”.
Now, more than four centuries on, Hunt Henion’s The Don Q Point of View comes as the latest in a long line of tributes. It might be thought difficult to say anything new about the Don, but in these pages we have a reliving of the Man of la Mancha’s life and hard times that is startling in its originality.
The book’s narrating “I” tells the reader that he who writes actually was, in a past life, a Don Quixote who in real truth existed. The reader who agrees to suspend disbelief, or to believe all the way, is rewarded with a remarkable journey. Hunt Henion retraces his steps as the Don, riding side by side with Sancho across the La Mancha plain: and tells how the book Miguel de Cervantes wrote combined fact with fiction, mixing true recollections of Don Quixote’s life with his own elaborations and inventions.
G.K. Chesterton saw Cervantes’ Don as no better than a “lean and foolish knight’”. Hunt Henion’s Quixote is at the antipodes of any such travesty. He is lean, but he is not foolish. He is one whose vision aspires beyond the surface of things and makes of the world a constant battlefield between good and evil. Despite defeats and disappointments, the paladin of the good never says die, and goes on believing till his last breath in “the impossible dream”. The Don whom Hunt Henion brings to life is the heroic Quixote, the one who on a dusty road frees the chained prisoners bound for the galleys, the one who declares “I am who I am” and refuses to be another. Our narrator relives a life in which he, as Don Quixote, challenged the rigidities and cruelties of Spain in the Inquisition era, never faltering in his vision of a kinder and juster world. In the epoch of Barack Obama, this re-created Quixote is one who stands up against the giants and enchanters of oppression, and shouts long and loud, for all the world to hear, “YES, WE CAN!”
NB: This review is also on the Shift Awareness site accompanying the book details, at: