Cover image for Don Quixote's delusions : travels in Castilian Spain
Don Quixote's delusions : travels in Castilian Spain
France, Miranda, 1966-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2002.

Physical Description:
243 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DP302.C553 F73 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Miranda France is a travel writer-cum-literary critic with an unsparingly truthful and delightfully absurd voice. "She has a wonderfully quick and vivid eye for convincing detail," said Christopher House in The Spectator . Her new book tells us about Spain by juxtaposing Cervantes's life and his character's adventures with the author's own delightful anecdotes, incomparable characters, and insightful observations.

At the heart of Miranda France 's utterly engaging book are two very different visits to Spain, set ten years apart. In 1987, the author spent her student year in Madrid-when post-Franco ebullience was at its height and pornography and soft drugs were legalized, along with divorce, party-affiliation, and kissing in the street. A return trip to central Spain, taken in 1998, shows France that much has changed in the country, but also that much has endured. An incomparable cast of real-life characters, along with France's compelling investigations of the world's first novel, Cervantes's Don Quixote -published in 1605 and, the author finds out, the most translated book after the Bible-reveal much about the identity of modern Spain and its people.

Author Notes

Miranda France was born in 1966 and grew up in East Anglia and Sussex. She studied Spanish and Latin American Studies at Edinburgh University and has lived in Brazil, Edinburgh, and Buenos Aires. She currently lives with her husband and son in London

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Initially published in Britain in 2001, this travel book blends history (or, in this instance, literature) with itinerary. France, an English writer (Bad Times in Buenos Aires, 1999), juxtaposes Cervantes' national epic and his main character, Don Quixote, along with Cervantes' life itself, to demonstrate how they still resonate so strongly in today's Spain. France's travels in Spain are spaced a decade apart from her student year in Madrid in 1987 to a return visit in 1998. Through it all, France has a humorous gift attached to a wry sense of the ridiculous, always tempered by sympathy for the travails and foibles of her subjects. Quixote believed he could make things true by believing in them hard enough, but the author says that "in the end, he was unable to sustain the delusion." So she finds in modern Spain, a land looking to join the modern world but still dogged by unbelievable corruption. --Allen Weakland

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perhaps it is fitting that all is not what it appears to be in this travel ode to Spain and its best-loved fictional character, Don Quixote, the titular subject of Cervantes's 1605 novel. At first, France (Bad Times in Buenos Aires) seems poised to write about the continuing importance of Quixote in modern-day Spain. However, when the author sets up a return to Madrid after living there as a student in 1987, a time comparison looms large. Both themes crash in a very shaky beginning. When establishing her story, France repeats details that might be considered lurid (the brothel across the street, the junkies in the doorway) and forsakes essentials: Who is she and why is she so taken with Don Quixote and Spain? France drops hints, but they are wholly unsatisfying (e.g., "My university studies demanded that I spend a year in Spain and I had chosen the capital, where I knew no one"). "Things seemed not to have changed much in the intervening years," she writes, without revealing how many years had intervened. Two years? Twelve years? The first clue comes three pages later, in this ungainly sentence: "The house was a wreck when we lived in it, and ten years on it had become more desperate." France doesn't hit her stride until chapter six; from there on out, both style and substance shine. France reflects on a few highlights of Spain's political and social history; she cross-references these with various interpretations of Don Quixote. Spaced out over several chapters, France's overview of what is often cited as the world's first novel is excellent and functions equally well as a refresher or introduction. Throughout, France recalls life as a 20-year-old in Madrid amid a rich cast of characters, from her incredibly beautiful roommate, Carmen, to her lover, a Peruvian revolutionary. France's passion and curiosity for her subjects are contagious, and in the end she proves she is clearly up to the task. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

British-born France (Bad Times in Buenos Aires) spent time as a student in central Spain in 1987 when the post-Franco euphoria was at its height and returned some ten years later to see whether much has changed in the country. Using Spain's greatest literary masterpiece, Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605), as a springboard to discuss the Spanish character and way of life, France contrasts the adventures of Cervantes's characters with her own to present a compelling portrait awash with frank observations of the people she met and the cities and villages she visited on both journeys. In the end, France concludes that although much has indeed changed in Spain since her first visit, much has also remained the same. Readers come away with a better understanding of Spanish civilization as well as the distinct style, origin, and inevitable cultural impact of Cervantes's masterpiece. Although not scholarly in tone, this travelog belongs in academic as well as public libraries because of its literary character and its focus on the novel itself. George M. Jenks, Bucknell Univ., Lewisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 A Dead Man in Madridp. 1
2 The Taxi-Driver's Cousin's Friendp. 17
3 Don Quixote's Delusionsp. 30
4 Transvestites, Anarchists and a Peruvian Poetp. 46
5 Double Lives and Double Cheeseburgersp. 55
6 Is Anything Real?p. 71
7 Pastoral Scenes in Avilap. 91
8 Love in a Cold Climatep. 109
9 A Question of Faithp. 129
10 Is Burgos Boring?p. 154
11 A Little Place in La Manchap. 176
12 Which Are You? Quixote or Sancho?p. 194
13 An Angel in Segoviap. 206
14 New Life in Castilep. 222
Further Readingp. 236
Indexp. 238