If you say someone is “tilting at windmills,” then you mean they’re wasting a lot of effort, but for a good cause – the definition of quixotic. I wonder if any of us in the naturist community has ever *not* experienced a moment, a day–or even a much longer period of time–of feeling quixotic about naturism. Like Don Quixote, we naturists soldier on for our noble nude objective, suffering setbacks due to the ignorance, incomprehension, and derision of society at large. Where Don Quixote saw a multi-armed giant instead of a windmill, we naturists sometimes see the tentacled spread of censorship instead of a connecting web of social media.
For many reasons, Cervantes’ tragicomic masterpiece is my favorite novel. I first read it in college, and even though I’ve read a good many novels since then, it continues to be my gold standard. I’m not alone – it’s one of the most widely translated and read books in the world, and many prominent writers and literary historians regard it as the first modern novel. Published in Madrid in two parts (1605 and 1615), El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha very quickly became a bestseller. It so happened that the first language in which it became available in translation was English: a rendition by Thomas Shelton published in London in 1612. Numerous film adaptations have been produced–and there’s another adaptation coming out this year starring Adam Driver–yet for many people the primary visual representation of the novel continues to be the classic illustrations of Gustave Doré that first appeared in a French translation in the 1860s. In fact, Don Quixote can be added to our list of canonical works of literature that fall victim to stolen nudity: the filmed versions, to my knowledge, never show the episode in which the knight-errant does penance in the mountains to honor his true love, the (imagined) lady Dulcinea, by performing somersaults and other acrobatics “naked from the waist down and clothed from the waist up” (Part I, Chap. 26). Gustave Doré, however, depicted the scene wonderfully.
I think it was this image of Doré’s, of Don Quixote standing on his head with no pants on, and with his legs splayed in a position that recalls the arms of the famous windmill, that first planted in my brain the idea of composing a naturist version of Don Quixote. I finally began to work on it this year, and as of this writing, I’ve uploaded the first four episodes onto my nudescribe site: The Nude Adventures of Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha. In my version, which takes place in 21st-century California instead of 17th-century Spain, our protagonist chooses a name that sounds similar to the original Don Quixote de la Mancha, “Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha,” which roughly means, in Mexican Spanglish, “Take off your Underwear for Crying Out Loud.” Doff de Chonez conceives the crazy idea to become a nudist-errant, traveling the state on his trusty bicycle Bare Glider! My version will not be nearly as long as the original, although I am generally following Cervantes’ narrative structure, at least at the outset. If you’re reading along, you know that as of the time I’m writing this, my version of the proverb-spouting Sancho has not yet appeared; just as in the original, Doff de Chonez’s first sally is a solo affair. Also according to the original, we are about to hit the episode in which the priest and the barber peruse Don Quixote’s library–since apparently fictional accounts about knights and dragons are the source of his madness–deciding which of his books to save and which to burn. Cervantes must have had a lot of fun writing the scene, passing judgment, through the opinions of his characters, on the works of authors both long-in-the-tooth and hot-off-the-press. I’m having a great time writing my version, as well – a chapter in which we writers of naturist fiction, whose works have somehow convinced Doff de Chonez to become a nudist-errant, will come under the lens of scrutiny…!
Another aspect that I love about Don Quixote, and that I sense to be shared with naturism, is its wry wink-and-grin meta-awareness. As we read about Don Quixote, for example, we learn that he is aware of himself as a fictional character, yet Cervantes constructs for us a host of narrators, translators and historians vying for authority over the events in the novel. We are left to wonder in confusion as to which version is reality, or which version we should believe to be real. Similarly, do we believe Don Quixote that he has found the Golden Helmet of Mambrino, or do we believe Sancho, who says that what the knight has placed on his head is merely a shaving basin? Appearances can be deceiving, and interpretations can be multiple and simultaneous. What does this have to do with naturism? I think it’s a lot like recognizing that a nude photo doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s also the recognition that even though we simply cannot always be nude, we can still spread awareness when dressed – like wearing a shirt or hat with the slogan “I’d rather be nude,” for example, or like the recently trending TaTa Top, a bikini top designed to resemble precisely what it is covering. The TaTa Top subverts authority and behavioral norms, while simultaneously questioning the appearance of what is real and what is illusion – just like our beloved hero, Don Quixote!
Stay tuned for more episodes of The Nude Adventures of Doff de Chonez pa su Mecha at nudescribe.com.