“He Never Sallied from His Library”

Did Quixote Imagine It All?

Did Don Quixote Imagine It All?

One reason I love this poem about the Knight of La Mancha is that its author, Jorge Luis Borges, was a bookworm like myself. Therefore, he could speculate as to whether the good Don dreamed all his adventures from the comfort of his own library.


Of that knight with the sallow, dry
Complexion and heroic bent, they guess
That, always on the verge of adventure,
He never sallied from his library.
The precise chronicle of his urges
And its tragic-comical reverses
Was dreamed by him, not by Cervantes,
It’s no more than a chronicle of dream.
Such my fate too. I know there’s something
Immortal and essential that I’ve buried
Somewhere in that library of the past
In which I read the history of the knight.
The slow leaves recall a child who gravely
Dreams vague things he cannot understand.

The translation is by A.S. Kline in this choice selection of Borges’s poetry on the Internet.

Life is different when you’re a reader. During my least favorite time of the year—tax season—I am lifted out of any temptation to depression by solving crimes with Chesterton’s Father Brown and Gaston Laroux with his mysterious Yellow Room; fighting the War of the Roses with Shakespeare’s Henry VI; becoming part of the mysterious search for Malory through a painterly landscape in Geoff Dyer’s The Search; and enjoying the world of books with Anatole France’s Sylvestre Bonnard.

After a day fighting with numbers, bits, and bytes, I vanish into my library and go tilting at my own windmills.