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Quichotte (Hardback)Salman Rushdie (author)
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A rumbustious picaresque that dissects modern America with merciless relish, Quichotte tells the surreal, satirical story of a television-obsessed travelling salesman and his imaginary son. Framed as a riotous road trip across the United States, Rushdie’s latest masterpiece is a hilarious, poignant and bitingly intelligent pastiche of Cervantes' classic Don Quixote.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019
Quichotte is a love story of profound tenderness and humanity from a great storyteller at his brilliant best. Wise, beautifully written, as heartbreaking as it is wildly comic, its characters unforgettable, its plot dazzlingly suspenseful, Quichotte illuminates our corrupt times where fact is so often indiscernible from fiction.
Quichotte, an ageing travelling salesman obsessed with TV, is on a quest for love. Unfortunately, his daily diet of reality TV, sitcoms, films, soaps, comedies and dramas has distorted his ability to separate fantasy from reality.
He wishes an imaginary son, Sancho, into existence, while obsessively writing love letters to a celebrity he knows only through his screen. Together the two innocents set off across America in Quichotte's trusty Chevy Cruze to find her and convince her of his love.
Quichotte's story is told by Brother, a mediocre spy novelist in the midst of a midlife crisis. As the stories of Brother and Quichotte intertwine, we are taken on a wild, picaresque journey through a country on the edge of moral and spiritual collapse.
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 648 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 37 mm
'Rushdie's fans will find much to love in this hyperactive, technicolour satire of a cultural moment in which the permeation of junk TV, fake news, social media and Trump himself have so disrupted the borders between Fiction and real life.' - The Mail
'…even if you feel overwhelmed, you can't help being charmed by Rushdie's largesse.' - The Observer
Salman Rushdie: The Waterstones Interview
W: Salman, welcome to Waterstones first of all
SR: Thank you
W: We're here to talk about your latest novel, Quichotte. We should probably clear up first of all the pronunciation question. Have I pronounced that correctly?
SR: Yeah. Quichotte, it's really the normal French pronunciation and there's an opera called Don Quichotte in French and the character who uses this as his pseudonym likes the opera so he calls himself after the French version.
W: Very good. Now it is of course inspired by Don Quixote and I thought we could maybe start off by talking about why you wanted to take that inspiration, to take that classic foundation text of Western literature and use it as the sort of inspiration for a very modern book.
SR: Well it's just that I was thinking of writing a novel that that travelled across America. Really, it's an antidote to my previous novel which happened almost entirely on Manhattan Island. I remember telling myself you should leave home now, time to leave town. And so I had this idea of doing a kind of a road novel and somewhere around the time when I was thinking about this coincidentally I had to read Don Quixote because there was an anniversary of Cervantes and I was asked to write something about it. So I picked it up after a long time and the moment I looked at it I thought oh well this gives me a very good sense of how to write a road novel. And immediately my own characters, who are rather different from Quixote and Sancho, popped into my head. So it became, it was like a trigger mechanism, you know, this experience of rereading Don Quixote. And actually the journey that my characters go on is not really it's not really based on the original but it certainly gave me the starting inspiration.
W: I suppose a word that's gonna be used a lot when talking about this book is satire, a word that was used for Don Quixote as well, satirising the times that it was written about. And you appear to be having the time of your life actually in this book, taking elements of modern popular culture and satirising them. Did you ever have any worry that we're living in an age which is almost beyond satire?
SR: I mean certainly it is true that the old phrase about truth being stranger than fiction has never been more true. But what I've found just living in America is that actually there's still very much a place for this kind of pointed comedy because of an evening, sitting at home, turning on the late-night comedians; I'm very grateful for them, you know? If I'm listening to just Stephen Colbert or Samantha Bee or Bill Maher. I feel actually that through the use of comedy they're sharper than the news commentators in the daytime and they sometimes, the knife goes deeper, you know? And so I think there still is very much a role for this kind of - whether it's stand-up comedy or written down books - I think there's really a place for it. Because if you do it right you can really just go a bit further than ordinary reportage.
W: So, with this novel what were the things that you were really hoping to sort of puncture?
SR: Well, junk television to start with you, in particular reality television. But also all that other stuff that we have now on the internet which which begins to blur the edges between truth and lies. I mean I think that one of the problems of the web is that you could have two websites, one of which is scholarly or authoritative etc and another one which is total junk. And they look exactly the same you know and they seem to have the same kind of authority. And I think increasingly it gets hard for people, to some people anyway, to distinguish between these things. I think that's dangerous, when there's rubbish like, you know, Kardashians and Bachelorettes and you know Big Brother houses and so on. When that begins to occupy the front of people's minds and presents itself to you as reality, whereas in fact it's complete unreality, it's completely manipulated reality you know. I think you do something, you begin to do something dangerous to people when you make it hard for people to distinguish truth from lies and so I wanted to have a go at that.
W: As you say with that difficulty to distinguish there is that worry that that people might see a novel as just simply entertainment and maybe not understand the more serious point that's being made
SR: Well the thing is that there's that, the satirical side of the novel, but there's also a kind of... I mean in many ways I think more important human side of the novel. Because what I liked about my version of the great Don is that he's not - the original is quite melancholic. You know he's referred to as 'the knight of the dolorous countenance.' He's a sort of sad faced, sad-sack. My character is actually absurdly optimistic and hopeful, you know, and smiley. And I liked the idea of having an optimist. Of somebody who is unshakeably hopeful and believes that that the world will carry him to his goal. That love will find a way. I wanted a character like that to go through the craziness of the present which is not always, which doesn't always justify optimism or hope.
W: We don't want to give away what happens to Quichotte on his quest for true love but I wonder whether you yourself feel optimistic about where we are now and what's happening.
SR: Well, I'm not despairing. Because I think that despair is a kind of luxury. I mean we have to, there's a lot wrong, which I don't even have to specify because we all think about it every day, you know, but I remember... I was a history student not a literature student. And one of the things that history teaches you is that history does not run on tramlines. It's not inevitable that it will go in a certain direction. Events can make very sudden left turns or right turns without any warning and the world can change dramatically overnight. You know the fall of Communism is an example of that. One doesn't despair. You don't think that the world is inevitably going to hell. It might not. It might go somewhere worse! Or somewhere better. So that's what I think. I mean there's a wonderful phrase much used that was said by the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci where he said that what one should have is pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will. And I think that's how I think about it. When I finished Midnight's Children all those years ago and nobody knew who I was etc I thought to myself, I think this is pretty good, you know. But I had no way of knowing whether the world would agree. And I hoped it did and as it turned out it was okay. This book I had a similar feeling. I thought you know I think I've done something here that to me feels a bit special. But I have no way of knowing whether the world will think that too. I haven't had that particular feeling except on these two occasions. So, you know, I hope it works.
W: I can't answer for the world I can only answer for myself but, as I say, it was just a riotous read, there's so much in there to enjoy so, Salman, thank you so much for the book and thank you telling us a bit more about it.
SR: Thank you
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