Don Quixote (1605 and 1615) is one of the most famous books in the Spanish language and indeed the entire literary canon. The novel, by Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616), tells of the adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha in central Spain. Having devoted his time to reading of ancient quests, and believing in the literal truth of the knights' exploits, he sets out on a series of ridiculous errands of his own. On these adventures he mistakes pubs for castles and windmills for giants, calls himself a knight and dresses in armour.
At the close of the second volume, Quixote recovers his sanity and repents of his deeds, which have caused considerable suffering to Sancho Panza in particular. His embarrassment and failure brings on a deadly illness and eventually he dies.
Don Quixote is seen as an exemplar of the picaresque novel, a satire of a roguish hero overcoming the perils of society through the power of his wits, written in a realistic but humorous style. The visual imagery and extravagant conceits have inspired works of art and music, including a painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and a composition by Richard Strauss (1864-1949). The characters are well recognised, with the word 'quixotic' entering the English language to mean the impossible pursuit of imaginary ideals.
In the novel, Quixote is the eternal idealist, Panza the weary follower, which has some echoes in the relationship between Fevvers and Lizzie; as Fevvers soars away from the earth, Lizzie works on her pamphlets to change it from where she is, and whilst Fevvers sees only a romantic view of Walser, Lizzie questions the practicality of any relationship. Dulcinea herself is an absent character, built into an ideal by Quixote's illusion, and in Walser's absence Fevvers is left questioning whether her attraction to him will prove to be equally baseless.