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The democracy of Don Quixote

Novelists have always turned their hands to essays, and the essay-writing novelist remains a literary force to be reckoned with. The two forms share an inherent pluralism and scepticism that makes them natural allies of democracy

By prospect   June 2007

In or around 1605, European literature changed. No one realised it at the time, but when Don Quixote set off to save the world, a new kind of writing was born. The old forms of storytelling—the epic, the romance, the oral tale—would from now on be pitted against a boisterous young rival. Before long it would be universally acknowledged that a reader hoping to enjoy a good story must be in search of a novel.

The novelty of the novel is of course connected with the rise of printing, and the growth of a literate public with time and money…

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