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[Opinion] The 400th Anniversary of Don Quixote

Posted April. 27, 2005 23:28,   


Work for money, or work for self-satisfaction? A 27-year-old Sigmund Freud was in agony. In order to get married, he had to become a psychiatrist to earn a great deal of money. You cannot earn money by merely researching. In a letter written to his finance, Masa, he wrote, “These days, I’m more into Don Quixote than intellectualism. Don’t you think that we all live in our dreams?” The book which he had his nose in was the “The Witty Knight-Errant: Don Quixote de la Mancha,” a book commemorating its 400th anniversary of publication this year. It could be considered that Don Quixote is the “Father of Psychoanalysis.”

I believe there are not many books that have given such diverse enlightenment to its readers as Don Quixote has. This can be seen by the fact that Don Quixote was selected by 100 authors from 54 different countries as “the most meaningful book” in 2002. Karl Marx suggested this book to Friedrich Engels because he viewed Don Quixote as “a revolutionary against capitalism.” On the contrary, Americans correlate Don Quixote with the American dream. Che Guevara, a Cuban guerrilla leader, before leaving for Bolivia, said, “I feel Rosinante’s rib cage (Don Quixote’s words) touching the heel of my foot,” identifying himself with Don Quixote.

Recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez handed out 100 copies of Don Quixote for free, saying, “Let’s read Don Quixote to fight against corruption in the world and enrich our spiritual being,” which was quixotic behavior indeed. There are always those reckless or idealistic Don Quixotes who only live according to their beliefs.

In South Korea, the first part of the book’s 732 pages of complete translation has come out in commemoration of its 400th anniversary. The second part is yet to come. The book is the second most published book in the world, with the Bible being number one. However, since the original work is over 1,000 pages, it is hard to find people, even in author Miguel de Cervantes’ hometown, who have read the whole book.

Kim Soon-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com