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Here is the truly amazing thing that few people besides Tommie Smith remember about his gold medal–winning 200-meter run in the 1968 Olympics: He broke the world record in just under 20 seconds on one good leg.
As we were editing our Sept. 15 issue in mid-August, news broke that author Salman Rushdie had been attacked at a lecture in western New York state. The story sent shock waves through the literary community—a stark reminder that violence can lurk in the corners of literary debate. Rushdie is the author of many works of fiction and nonfiction and is most celebrated for his 1981 novel, Midnight’s Children, a kaleidoscopic epic of Indian life after independence that won the Booker Prize as well as two subsequent honors, the Booker of Bookers in 1993 and the Best of the Booker in 2008.
From a London Review of Books online review:
Quichotte opens with a brilliant parody of Cervantes’s first sentence: ‘There once lived, at a series of temporary addresses across the United States of America, a travelling man of Indian origin, advancing years, and retreating mental powers.’ The temporary addresses are a fine revision of Cervantes’s pretending not to remember the name of the place where Quixote lived – literally, he says he doesn’t want to remember. But in spite of this and many other echoes, Quichotte is not all that close to the original Don Quixote in style or mood, and doesn’t seek to be. The leading character chooses his pseudonym because a recording of Massenet’s opera Don Quichotte was his father’s favourite LP, and echoes of the musical Man of La Mancha, with the obligatory ‘impossible dream’, are all over the place.
Cervantes tells us that Don Quixote lost his mind because he read too many romances of chivalry, not all nonsense, as many critics assume, but not models of realism either; yet there are indications, as the novel develops, that Quixote has learned to play at madness, like Hamlet, because it seems to work, because a functioning pretence of knighthood is better than staying at home. Quichotte largely follows the romantic reading of the knight as idealist, whose madness consists of his nobility of spirit and his refusal to believe that the pragmatically possible is an acceptable limit to human behaviour. Rushdie is both mocking and celebrating this posture, and his Quichotte is genuinely ridiculous as well as heroic. He has other sources too, he tells us in his acknowledgments, and both Pinocchio and The Conference of the Birds play a considerable role in the plot. It’s good to see Jiminy Cricket speaking Italian.
To read more: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n17/michael-wood/the-profusion-effect