Friday, May 20, 2005

Don Quixote's 400th Anniversary--Part One

I have been writing a draft of this for a couple of weeks now. When I thought about it the first time, I just wanted to make a little note and maybe provide some links for readers. As I began to reflect on my experience with the book, it became more of a little essay. So, here goes. I will put a few items of interest here, and then my reflection on part two.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote De La Mancha, (you can find a complete Spanish version here, thanks to the site of Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, part of the 400th celebration). The novel is known simply to most folks as Don Quixote (you can find an English text here through If the link does not work, a search will bring various results). The celebration is taking various forms throughout the world. One example is Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez is promoting the free distribution of one million copies of the novel to the people in a campaign dubbed Operation Dulcinea. In academia, various scholarly publications are presenting special editions devoted to Cervantes's novel. One example is the issue of Hispania 88.1 (March 2005) Special Quijote Issue. Hispania is the journal of the Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Another project online that may be of interest is the Projecto Cervantes out of Texas A&M in collaboration with others including the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. The site is in Spanish, but there is also an English menu.

Readers can also run searches in Google on the topic of the 400th years of Don Quixote. For the readers who may prefer a Spanish language portal, they can use and seek "Cuarto Centenario Don Quijote" It seemed better than Google for Spanish language users. Yahoo! in Spanish also has some decent results.

There is also a short article published in the Times Literary Review, April 22, 2005, by Jeremy Lawrence. He is reviewing two new editions of the novel out in time for the celebration. He writes that "the purpose of this review has been to suggest that Don Quijote is eminently readable, but that absolutely nothing can be got out of it without reading it. The book amply repays dipping--perusing a single chapter is better than all the repackaged substitutes--but in the end, only reading will do. . . ." The article makes for an interesting little piece on reading the work and its significance, and it gives a little commentary on all the repackaging of the novel that will be going on as well. He observes that "these forms of repackaging all share the conviction that though everyone should be invited to bend the knee before the incomparable Don and his one-armed creator, we must be spared the trouble of reading a thousand-page Spanish Baroque novel." I hope some readers out there will take the "trouble" of reading the novel, maybe just to discover the knight for themselves.

In addition, I came across a few quotes speaking about the novel. They are in Spanish, but I have provided a free translation, in parenthesis, for readers who may not read in Spanish.

(Famous phrases about El Quixote)

“Siempre pienso que una de las cosas felices que me han ocurrido en la vida es haber conocido a Don Quijote.”
("I always think that one of the happiest things I have had in my life is having met Don Quijote."
--Jorge Luis Borges, Argentinian writer

“Si hay una novela que hay que leer antes de morir, esa novela es Don Quijote.”
("If there is one novel to read before dying, that novel is Don Quixote."
--Ben Okri, Nigerian writer

“Es muy interesante la locura de Don Quijote, porque es un personaje que se hace loco cuando no puede aceptar la realidad de sí mismo.”
("Don Quixote's madness is very interesting because it is a character that becomes mad when he cannot accept the reality within himself.")
--Carlos Castillo del Pino, Spanish psychiatrist

"El libro de los libros."
("The book of books.")
--Gustave Flaubert, French writer

“Esa flor de Caballería, Don Quijote de la Mancha, sigue siendo para todo el mundo el único Hidalgo genuino y eterno.”
("That flower of Chivalry, Don Quixote de la Mancha, continues to be the only knight, authentic and eternal.")
--Joseph Conrad, British novelist

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