What is the best English translation of Don Quixote?

The thread title pretty much says it all. Additional input concerning the best annotated/footnote/endnote editions and other such factors is also welcome :slight_smile:

Since I have no spanish, I’m in no position to opine as to which version is the best translation, however, in my experience, I prefer the Ormsby translation.

Attempts to read newer translations have always left me disappointed – something about the pomposity of Ormsby’s phraseology seems “right” for Don Quixote, and the two (now forgotten) newer translations that I’ve picked up didn’t ring true to me. I acknowledge that this is a totally subjective thing, and, in fact, experience has shown me that the newer the translation, the less likely it is to have been fudged to conform to an unreasonable sense of “propriety,” and Ormsby is, beyond a doubt, a little dated.

As well-thumbed as my copy is, I expect that opinions that follow in this thread will inform my decision when I replace my copy of the book.

(Jeez, speaking of pompous phraseology! It was an accident, honest!)

My vote goes to the 1755 translation by Tobias Smollett.

To quote Carlos Fuentes, who writes better than I do, “It is not necessarily the most lexicographically accurate, but it is the one where the feeling and tone both come through…It is a novelist’s translation. Its immediacy and force, its playfulness and its freshness, will show the modern English language reader why Don Quixote is the first modern novel, perhaps the most eternal novel ever written, and certainly the fountainhead of European and American fiction.”

My copy is the 1986 edition from Farrar, Straus & Giroux. No footnotes, I’m afraid.

I am currently reading the book. I am using the Signet Classic edition, translated by Walter Starkie. Starkie’s translation is very readable. In addition, he notes (in footnotes) “in jokes” that would be lost on me (as a twenty-first century American, rather than a sixteenth century Spaniard).

Zev Steinhardt

Yikes, 3 different translations already!

I suppose I am concerned about the translation due to an incident buying a used “translation” of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and then realizing that the French sentences in the text were neither translated nor footnoted (i.e., translated in a footnote) :stuck_out_tongue:

I am usually not very particular in translations of foreign novels. Instead, I usually buy the newest mass market paperback version, although I will also go for older copies if I find them used or cheap (as in the case of The Magic Mountain). Also, some novels seem to have “definitive” translations, whereas others seem to have only one translation available when I purchase them. However, in the case of Don Quixote, there appears to be many affordable and available translations, and my internet searches concerning which translations are better than others yielded nothing useful.

On amazon.com I see three translations from people not mentioned in previous posts: John Rutherford, Samuel Putnam and Burton Raffel. I found a couple more translations on barnesandnoble.com.

Because of the availability of various translations, I want to make sure I avoid Magic Mountain problems, while at the same time getting the most enjoyable translation.

For the reasons Zev mentioned, a footnoted copy can be useful in providing info clarifying elements that could be unclear to a modern reader. Does Don Quixote stand well by itself, or is it recommended for a first time reader to get a footnoted version?

Thanks for the input so far :slight_smile:

I am currently reading it for the first time. So far, in only the first 100 pages or so, I’ve come across several references that, without the footnotes, I’d be saying “Huh? Wuzzat?”

Get a footnoted version. If you don’t like the footnotes, you can always ignore them.

Zev Steinhardt

I went with Zev’s post and picked the Signet Classic version translated by Walter Starkie. Due to the small number of responses, I had to go with the one response that seemed the most accessible for someone new to Don Quixote.

Thanks for your help :slight_smile: