“Don Quixote” by Miguel Cervantes blew me away. For a long time, I had put it off because I was nervous about archaic language lost in translation, and wasn’t sure how well a story about a delusional knight would hold up. Boy, was I wrong.
While “Don Quixote” might not be as “quick” as most of the contemporary fiction we’re used to, it is as timeless as most contemporary fiction is already dated. It’s timeless because of it depicts human action. At the time Miguel Cervantes wrote “Don Quixote”, there were many tales of chivalry floating around Spain — one might be inclined to compare these tales of chivalry to “timely” novels with escapist themes in any generation.
Basically, the titular character finds his current life so boring and miserable that he fantasizes that he actually lives in the “chivalric world.” His sidekick Sancho Panza suspects his master is “mad” but he’s perfectly happy to tag along for the adventures because his own greed outweighs his good judgment (and Don Quixote has promised him riches in the form of an insula/governorship).
“Don Quixote” is worth reading today, not only because of its varied use of literary devices (of stories within the the story, and other meta-fiction features; Quixote becomes a celebrity even within the context of his own story) but mostly because it seems to be a novel about escapism in reality — and, to some degree a commentary that touts both the rewards of marching to the beat of one’s own drum, but also the punishments and dangers of disregarding what is reality.