Wednesday, October 9, 2013

No School Today!

Photos of Don Quixote Iconographic Museum (Museo Iconografico del Quijote), Guanajuato
Don Quijote, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
That's right - it's a holiday, well, in Alcala, at least. It's the anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes' baptism. Without him, the word quixotic would not exist. We can also thank him for writing what is considered to be the first modern European novel. An important day indeed.

Cervantes was born in Alcala (where I teach), and every 9th of October there's a village fete to celebrate his life and work. Personally, I think that with a life as exciting as his, he would have been hard-pressed to do anything other than write - born in Alcala, worked in Rome as an assistant to a priest, then enlisted as a soldier in the Spanish Navy regiment, during which time he was captured by pirates. He spent five years in slavery before his parents were able to pay his ransom and he returned to Spain, this time to Madrid. Writing wasn't enough to pay the bills, so he worked for the Spanish Armada and also as a tax collector, but wound up in prison in Seville. Upon his release, he moved to Valladolid, at which time he had great success with Don Quixote. He moved back to Madrid, where his spent the rest of his days writing. See what I mean? His life is a novel in its own right.

The Cervantes Birthplace Museum is a monographic museum owned and run by the Autonomous Region of Madrid.
cervantes museum
Don Quixote, for which he is best known, has sold over 600 million copies and has been in print for more than 400 years. It's the best-selling book in the world after the Bible, according to Spaniards. Now that's a good book! It's a lengthy tome, but you can kind of pick and choose chapters if you're not up for the Spanish-style two-day marathon reading of the whole thing.

You can visit his birthplace in Alcala de Henares. His childhood home is now a museum and has and exhibition of interesting editions of his obra maestra, as well as period rooms and a marionette theatre. Once you're done, the town is a lovely place for a stroll.
If you're not into reading or museum-going, there's a musical, a cartoon and a ballet, but I suggest checking it out on film. Go for the one directed by Peter Yates. John Lithgow gives life to our quixotic hero, Isabella Rossellini is the Duchess, and Vanessa Williams is the beautiful Dulcinea. Wow, flashback to high school Spanish class!

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