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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


The New Adventures
of Don Quixote

Tariq Ali

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The New Adventures of Don Quixote

Title: The New Adventures of Don Quixote
Author: Tariq Ali
Genre: Play
Written: 2014
Length: 143 pages
Availability: The New Adventures of Don Quixote - US
The New Adventures of Don Quixote - UK
The New Adventures of Don Quixote - Canada
The New Adventures of Don Quixote - India
  • Premiered 1 November 2013, in a production directed by Jean-Claude Berutti at the Grillo-Theater, Essen, as Die neuen Abenteuer des Don Quijote
  • With an Interview with the author
  • With a Note from the Director
  • With many full-color, full-page photographs of the production, by Arko Datto

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Our Assessment:

B- : some fine bits, but too loose and baggy

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Tariq Ali's play, The New Adventures of Don Quixote, premiered in Germany in 2013, but doesn't seem to have much of a performance history beyond that, and one can understand why: while an appealing idea -- a Don Quixote for (and in) contemporary times --, there's too little unity to the play, making it seem too much just a sequence of scenes. As message-drama, the messages also threaten to overwhelm (as well as veering, in staged form, easily to the oversimplified). Ali manages some fine scenes and exchanges -- but it doesn't quite add up to a play.
       Setting the bar very high, Ali acknowledges in an interview printed at the beginning of this volume, that:

the play I wrote is not conventional, its style is a homage to the giants of the last century: Meyerhold, Brecht, Weiss.
       Ali confronts his Don Quixote and Sancho Panza with issues from contemporary times: among others, attitudes against minorities (here specifically the Roma) and homosexuals (especially attitudes in the Arabic world towards them), sexual harassment, as well as the state (and a representative Intellectual) being compromised by and in bed with the financial-industrial complex (i.e. modern capitalism).
       Updating what Don Quixote faces, Ali, for example, presents the Roma as a counterpart group to how the Jews were seen and treated in Don Quixote's times, the cry of a Roma Woman on the run in Europe yet again no different from that of the Jews until recently:
My people have lived in this continent for fifteen hundred years. Fifteen hundred years. And still it goes on.
       War is still glorified in the worlds Don Quixote passes through, and violence remains the first choice of how to deal with almost any matter. Don Quixote may be an idealist, and man of peace, but those in power aren't interested in that -- as explained by someone representing the Nobel Peace Prize:
NOBEL-COMMITTEE MAN: I've come on behalf of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

PRIVATE X: I think you've got the wrong man. Surely you want Don Quixote ?

NOBEL-COMMITTEE MAN: Certainly not. He's never killed anyone. This prize is awarded only to those who help peace by making war. It's a lot of money. Millions of dollars.

PRIVATE X: Smiles. Just for killing children ? Or adults as well?

NOBEL-COMMITTEE MAN: For preserving the peace.
       Don Quixote keeps up to date with the latest literature, too, with Sancho Panze complaining about the books they lug along: "We keep Adam Smith, Marx, Vilar and Polanyi", Don Quixote decides, while casting aside the others, which remind him of: "those stupid books on chivalry long ago". (The books ? Among others: Why Globalization Works by Martin Wolf, In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati, and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree by, by ... Oh, it doesn't matter".)
       Winding up in he Middle East, Don Quixote encounters a group of sodomites (his term) -- "the gay people of the Arab world, gathered here at the sacred site of Sodom", where they hope to rebuild the city, making it: "open to all who are repressed, mistreated or simply depressed anywhere in the world". Initially shocked -- especially that they could think that he and Sancho Panza are also partners in that particular way --, Don Quixote is easily won over and becomes supportive.
       The final stage has Don Quixote on the Horn of Africa, eager for pirate adventure -- only to learn that pirates are the locals driven to the sea by the foreign powers that label them terrorists and attack them in their homes with their drones.
       After making their way from the Roma camp through Europe, to the US military hospital at Landstuhl, the Dead Sea, and finally the Horn of Africa, Don Quixote still looks hopefully ahead. Is there any hope ? Ali/Don Quixote looks to China:
That is where the world might be remade. Might be. Might be.
       It's an interesting final twist and suggestion -- though Ali pretty much leaves it only at that, otherwise unsupported.
       A welcome clever touch to the play is not to focus simply on the Don Quixote/Sanch Panza pairing, but to also give scenes to their rides, Rocinante and the Mule. The two animals are also big readers -- of Hegel and Rosa Luxemburg, respectively, when they first get the spotlight -- and engage in debates about their lives and what they encounter, separating themselves from the horrors humans perpetrate.
       Their debates extend to the very essence, too:
MULE: Who created us ?

ROCINANTE: What kind of dumb questin is that ? The great master Cervantes, of course. Who else ?

MULE: God.

ROCINANTE: Listen, you obstinate fool. We're animals. We don't have to believe in God. That's meant for superior species.

MULE: Why did Cervantes create us ?

ROCINANTE: Because he was a genius. I think he made me a bit like himself. But those who ride us were not so lucky.
       The dialogue, especially of those characters that are authentically Cervantian, is often quite clever and amusing, but Ali can't quite fit all he wants to address in the modern-day adventures in the space of his three acts. The two conversing animals, standing aside, make for some unity, but there's too little beyond that: there's far too little sense of progression to The New Adventures of Don Quixote. (Arguably, Ali merely mirrors Cervantes' own approach -- but over the leisurely space of his large novel that was much easier to pull off for the old master.)
       While The New Adventures of Don Quixote does have some strong bits and lines, and addresses all-too-real issues (as I write this, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to crack down on the Roma population, and expel those who aren't citizens, while Ali's eerie moving wall at the Dead Sea ("that seems to follow us everywhere so our space is being constantly constricted") seems all too real in a time where there's so much talk of (and actual) wall-building).
       The New Adventures of Don Quixote is a fairly quick read -- but these complex issues (and there are so many of them) don't necessarily lend themselves to such quick treatment.
       Worth noting, however: the Seagull book is a beautiful edition, and the many full-page, full-color photographs, by Arko Datto, from the first production make this a very attractive volume.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 June 2018

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The New Adventures of Don Quixote: Reviews: Tariq Ali: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama books

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About the Author:

       Author Tariq Ali was born in 1943.

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© 2018 the complete review

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