As a preview to the year end meeting of our Reading Group in Tripoli we discuss the narrative devices of Don Quixote by Cervantes. In the context of –Management Challenges of 21st century, in post 2011 Arab spring countries, one can learn a lot from these narratives.
The Reading group has helped us shape perspective, enrich our lives through many discussions of local contexts. It has also helped me evolve a Reading journal, which helps to keep in touch with friends and family around the world.
Here is how…
REMEMBERING DON QUIXOTE
Don Quixote by Cervantes is one of the most influential works of literature.
Cervantes gave the narrative tools of -the Wannabe (Don Quixote) as hero and the Sancho as anti-hero.
The novel uses the master narrative plot of “Hero goes on a journey”
Thomas Shippey in his Great course analyzes the immensely psychologically penetrating narrative device of having a Hero and anti-hero which set the plot into motion. Don Quixote represents the Ego in each one of us, and Sancho Panza represents the Id. To skip the Freudian language , we can put it like this, we have a little of both in all of us . There is one part of us which wants to be a Hero or a Saint while there is another part is a little fat man who sees the virtues of staying alive in a whole skin. One world is the imaginary fantasy world which wants to be a Hero/Heroine, while there is another which says that it is not true, we still have to work and pay our bills.
These narrative inventions of Cervantes are at the heart of the novel, and were there right from the beginning.
SPEAKING THE UNSPEAKABLE….THE FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY
The different sections of the country were well represented by the styles of dressing.
Things were going on well, with niceties and pleasantries being exchanged till the diplomats made the “mistake” of telling the persons present to introduce themselves and say a few words, so that they come to know each other.
Most of the company directors tried to show how important they and their companies were. Some gave suggestions of holding a fund-raising dinner.
Then one undiplomatic remark set a big discussion.
“You should not only sign declarations and orders, but also follow-up with hard work and think through the solutions and possibilities. Otherwise there will be no New dawn.”
This un-diplomatic remark by expatriate worker in a meeting organized by an embassy in Tripoli to foster friendship was met with mixed emotions from various quarters.
After a moment of uneasy silence, there was spontaneous clapping to the remarks which came from the heart.
” If I am a true friend, then I will tell you the truth, otherwise it is hypocrisy,” he replied to the critics who told him that though what he said was true, this was neither the place (an embassy) nor the occasion (a Friendship society meeting) to convey such remarks.
Looking back at 2014, I smile and remember that ‘undiplomatic moment’ and choose to use the novel Don Quixote by Cervantes to shape perspective.
Made me remember the words of a senior diplomat.
” Our job is to speak the unspeakable without hurting the other person.”
Obviously our non-diplomat friend had not been trained in these ways.
WE ALL START BY LAUGHING AT THE DON….
There was another evacuation and the community has now dwindled to some old timers. But as I look back at 2014, I remember the words of that long time worker and fellow-reader with mixed emotions.
There was something comical, something tragic about him. In some way, each worker in a foreign land faces these issues in some ways, issues of renewal of contract-visa, of money transfers, or getting their gratuity.
Orders and declarations signed, but not followed up by concrete action.
Or to put it in perspective of Don Quixote- the great influential work of Cervantes as Professor Shippey concluded in his lecture.
“We all start by laughing at the Don, we end by recognizing ourselves in him.”