Salman Rushdie, famed for his flamboyant and fantastical style, offers a work of mind-boggling meta-fiction for his fourteenth novel.
Needless to say, Quichotte does not aim to innovate: there have been countless Don Quijotes since Cervantes first penned the character in 1605. True to the original, Rushdie’s take is unashamedly self-reflective, littered with references to popular culture and stinging satire of our degenerated modern society.
If the narrative is at times exuberant and pretentious this is not gratuitous; rather, it is in fitting with the original Don who, lost in his made-up world of medieval honour codes, takes himself far too seriously. Comparing Cervantes’ romance-obsessed hidalgo and Rushdie’s reality-TV addict highlights the staggering advancements made in the past four hundred years, but simultaneously reminds us how little we’ve really changed.
Unsurprisingly, the dual narrative, which combines the life of a struggling crime writer with episodes from his latest creation, quickly unravels to merge fiction and reality into an uncertain muddle. This confusion is augmented by the abundant fantastical elements – a Italian-speaking cricket for starters – that pierce “reality” and threaten our ability to distinguish truth from appearance.
Quichotte is dizzying, dazzling and stunningly profound. An unforgettable journey.