Thursday, August 6, 2009

Don Quixote (Quijote) on Ex Libris I

Don Quixote (Quijote) on Exlibris


JoAnn Pari-Mueller

"Youngsters read it (Don Quixote's story), grown men understand it, and old people applaud it." So wrote Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of the immortal story, Don Quixote.

History. Cervantes, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, was born in Spain in 1547 and led quite a fascinating life. His first poems were written as early as 1567. He served years in the Spanish army under Philip II and in 1571, during the Battle of Lepanto, suffered a gunshot wound which caused permanent damage to his left hand. Then, in 1575, en route to Spain, his ship was captured by Barbary pirates and he was sold into slavery in Algiers. He made four unsuccessful attempts to escape. Trinitarian friars paid his ransom in 1580. In 1582 his first plays were performed and in 1584 at the age of 37, he married a young woman 20 years his junior. By 1587 he was a quasi-government official who traveled widely around Spain, requisitioning wheat and olive oil. He became an aspiring dramatist and a tax collector, but was imprisoned again in 1597 - this time for a shortfall in taxes collected and irregularities in his accounts.

Drawing on his vast variety of life experiences, he finally published Part 1 of Don Quixote in 1605 (at age 57!). It was an immediate success; ten years later he published Part 2. In addition to Don Quixote, he published other novels, short stories, and poems during this decade. He died in 1616, a few days after Shakespeare.

Don Quixote, considered by many to be the first truly modern novel, marked its 400th anniversary in 2005 with worldwide celebrations and symposiums. It has been translated into more than 70 languages and continues to be newly translated by each generation so as to adapt to the changes in nuances of language. Differences in translations can range from subtle to extreme. It won the Norwegian Nobel Institute's "Best Work of Fiction Ever" survey, conducted in 2002; 100 prominent authors from over 50 countries responded to the poll.

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