Andrew Mitchell Davenport in Full Stop:
There are many stories in Don Quixote, but perhaps not a single one so unbelievable as the story of its creator. Miguel de Cervantes didn’t have it easy. William Egginton’s new work, The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World (Bloomsbury, 2016), makes this abundantly clear. But Egginton’s book focuses on the ways in which Cervantes, with his literary talents and his time-tested sense of humor, persevered in a world that seems to have conspired to keep him down. Cervantes was no ordinary chap. He was a humanist in an age of inquisition. Somehow he kept his head.
Who was this man? And how did his life inform his art? Egginton pursues these questions and presents his audience with enormously rich readings of Cervantes’ fictions while demonstrating how a man with a dream can overcome the limits imposed by reality.
A.M. Davenport: Bill, how would you describe Don Quixote to an alien?
William Egginton: This is a novel written by a deeply disillusioned soldier many years ago, about a deeply deluded soldier living in his own time. It’s about a friendship between two very different men who can’t quite see the world in the same way, and the love they feel for one another despite, or even because of those differences. And finally, it’s a novel about how sure we humans are about what we know to be true, how dreadfully wrong we can be, and how incredibly funny that fact is, once we can learn to see the truth of our situations.