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I have revised herein my question of Aug 18 and update my research based on the most helpful suggestions of Peter Schor and tchrist of Aug 18, 2013.

  1. I'm not a Cervantista and don't speak Spanish. I've just been fond of this phrase for a long time and, in opinion, it still remains the most pleasing, concise description of the loveable Don Quixote.

  2. Cervantes wrote Part I in 1605 and 10 years later in 1615 Part II. This quote comes from his Part II Chapter XVIII (2:18.)

  3. The exact quote is not found in any of the major translations which I list below. The exact quote actually appeared first in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 14th Ed. 1968, Emily Morison Beck, Editor, p. 196. Footnote 3 says the editors used for reference Motteux's translation published by the Modern Library Giant edition, New York 1930. I just now bought my copy. Of the 114 Quixote quotes, 112 (97%) are verbatim quotes from the book, only four are different. Interestingly, one of the four is our quote in question.

  4. So, who translated this quote? As Peter Schor has so kindly contributed, "It's possible Bartlett...translated the Spanish themselves..." I'm also greatly indebted to tchrist, "The origin of the choice of translation lies always with the translator...is all open to the translator's choice of nuance..."

1620 Thomas Shelton, first English translator, He is a curious madman, and hath neat dilemmas

1712 Peter Motteux, 1719 Ozell's revision of Motteux's translation, Modern Library Giant Ed. (New York 1930) p. 557, He is Mad past Recovery, but yet he has lucid intervals

1742 Charles Jarvis, Vol IV p. 129, His distraction is a medley full of lucid intervals

1755 Tobias Smollett, Modern Library 2004, p. 366, he is a party-coloured maniack, full of lucid intervals

1881 Alexander J. Duffield, p.76, he is a mingled madman, of many lucid intervals

1885 John Ormsby, 1981 Douglas/Jones revision sans lenghty notes, hence ODJ, he is a madman full of streaks, full of lucid intervals

1888 Henry Edward Watts, Vol IV p. 209, He is a fool interlarded.1---full of lucid streaks. Footnote 1: Un entreverado loco. Entreverado is generally applied to bacon, meaning fat and lean commingled. See Donoso the poeta entreverado, in the prefatory verses to Part I. (Vol II. P.26)

1949 Samuel Putnam, Modern Library p. 624, He is a streaked madman, full of lucid intervals.

1950 J. M. Cohen, Penguin Classics, Collector's Library reprint 2008, p. 625, He is mad in patches, full of lucid intervals

1957 Walter Starkie, Signet Classics p. 652, He is mad in patches, full of lucid intervals

1968 Bartlett's Familiar Quotations 14th Ed. 1968, p. 196, He's a muddled fool, full of lucid intervals, III, 18, p. 556. P. 193 footnote 3: Translated in 1700-1703 by Peter Anthony Motteux (1660-1718). Page numbers are those of the Modern Library Giant edition. (note 2 typos: Motteux was born 1663, correct page is 557)

1995 Burton Raffel, Norton Critical Edition p. 453, he's plainly an off-again on-again madman, shot full of lucid intervals

1999 Oxford Dictionary of Quotations 1999, p. 200, He's a muddle-headed fool, with frequent lucid intervals

2000 John Rutherford, Penguin Classics p. 604, he's mad in streaks, complete with lucid intervals

2003 Edith Grossman, HarperCollins p. 511, he is a combination madman who has many lucid intervals

2005 Tom Lathrop, Signet Classics 2011, p. 637, He's a crazy man with periods of lucidity

2006 James Montgomery, Hackett Pub. Co. I don't have

The old Italian proverb, Traduttore, traditore, did warn that interpreting translation phrases can be treacherous.

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about translations of 400-year-old Spanish text –  FumbleFingers Aug 18 '13 at 11:30
    
What is the original Spanish? Why do you believe the source isn't actually the (Spanish) version by Cervantes? –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 18 '13 at 13:31
    
Not clear what you're asking. Are you acting where the original translation comes from; or the origin of the expression "lucid intervals"; or of the expression "muddled fool"; or something else.? –  TrevorD Aug 18 '13 at 15:22
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I think the question is: who translated the excerpt from Don Quixote as "he's a muddle-headed fool, with frequent lucid intervals" (Bartlett's Familiar Quotations) or "he's a muddled fool, full of lucid intervals" (Oxford Dictionary of Quotations)? It's possible Bartlett and Oxford translated the Spanish themselves ... it's not that hard to do if you know both languages. –  Peter Shor Aug 18 '13 at 16:11
    
@PieterGeerkens In answer to your question, the Spanish has: "«Escapado se nos ha nuestro huésped —dijo a esta sazón entre sí don Lorenzo—, pero, con todo eso, él es loco bizarro, y yo sería mentecato flojo si así no lo creyese.» Aquí dieron fin a su plática, porque los llamaron a comer. Preguntó don Diego a su hijo qué había sacado en limpio del ingenio del huésped. A lo que él respondió: —No le sacarán del borrador de su locura cuantos médicos y buenos escribanos tiene el mundo: él es un entreverado loco, lleno de lúcidos intervalos." I entreat you to make of that what you will. :) –  tchrist Aug 18 '13 at 16:12
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closed as unclear what you're asking by FumbleFingers, TrevorD, Peter Shor , p.s.w.g, Brian Hooper Aug 19 '13 at 18:11

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1 Answer

The origin of the choice of translation lies always with the translator. In the original Quijote, the Spanish reads:

Él es un entreverado loco, lleno de lúcidos intervalos.

—Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in El ingenioso caballero Don Quijote de la Mancha, Second Part: Chapter 18.

So now we know what is and what is not the fabulation of the translator:

  • The first part says that our favorite knight-errant is an "entreverado loco".

  • The word entreverado means something like a jumble, scramble, mixture, or mix-up. Loco means crazy as an adjective and madman, fool, or nut-job as a noun.

  • The second porttion's lleno de lúcidos intervalos simply means that he is "full of lucid intervals".

The "full of lucid intervals" portion is clearly translated, but how to translate the earlier "entreverado loco" is something that the various English translations have significantly varied on.

Whether to call him a mixed-up fool, or a muddled madman, or a crazy jumble, is all open to the translator's choice of nuance, and I don't think it matters too much what they choose.

However, the part you cite about him being "past recovery" is not anywhere to be found in the original, and seems to be taking too much liberty with the translation (in my humble opinion).


Broader Context

The larger context is as follows:

«Escapado se nos ha nuestro huésped —dijo a esta sazón entre sí don Lorenzo—, pero, con todo eso, él es loco bizarro, y yo sería mentecato flojo si así no lo creyese.»

Aquí dieron fin a su plática, porque los llamaron a comer. Preguntó don Diego a su hijo qué había sacado en limpio del ingenio del huésped. A lo que él respondió:

—No le sacarán del borrador de su locura cuantos médicos y buenos escribanos tiene el mundo: él es un entreverado loco, lleno de lúcidos intervalos.

Where one translation of that reads as follows:

"Our guest has broken out on our hands," said Don Lorenzo to himself at this point; "but, for all that, he is a glorious madman, and I should be a dull blockhead to doubt it."

Here, being summoned to dinner, they brought their colloquy to a close. Don Diego asked his son what he had been able to make out as to the wits of their guest. To which he replied, "All the doctors and clever scribes in the world will not make sense of the scrawl of his madness; he is a madman full of streaks, full of lucid intervals."

As I initially indicated, while the "full of lucid intervals" portion always seems to get translated the same way, the early portion of the statement is subject to considerable variation between translators and historical epochs.

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