Book review: Quichotte

25 Mar 2020 / 16:58 H.

THIS book tells the story of Ismail Smile – a travelling salesman of medical products – who falls in love with a woman he sees on TV and sets out to win her heart. He takes the name Quichotte, and starts writing her letters to introduce himself and explain his quest.

This man is, obviously, quite insane. Somehow, in the loving embrace of his madness, he becomes a hero who is willing to go crazy in a world that is equally mad.

Also, within the dreamland of the novel that bears his name, he isn’t real.

This is because he is the creation of a spy novel writer named Sam DuChamp who came up with him one day, when it occurred to Sam that his entire career had been built on lies and secret identities, so he decided to write something ‘real’.

Then again, Sam isn’t really real either. Because there’s another level to this whole narrative, which is the bodiless narrator who is stitching the narrations together from varied strands – from the lives and histories of people who all came from one small part of India, and who were chasing the American dream.

The book goes from the point of view of Quichotte to Sam, then Sam’s sister and Salma R, the object of Quichotte’s affections, then Sancho, Quichotte’s son, who appears only in black and white, can talk to spirits, and also is a fabrication of the childless Quichotte via the almost-but-not-completely childless Sam.

In a funny way, Quichotte the book is a mess of confusion to some readers. It could be said that the novel attempts to reflect back to us the insanity of living in a world that is not based on reality – that’s what happens when lies become as good as facts.

In the end, Quichotte is a novel about belief, or about the power of believing with the conviction that belief alone is enough to make things true.

Ultimately, it is also a story about a man who loves a woman, and a father who loves a son, and who will do anything to earn their love, too. – by M.L.M

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