Yesterday we celebrated the Day of the Book and the celebration comes from the fact that on this date two important Literary men died: Shakespeare and Cervantes. Maybe most people know the latter is especially famous for writing a masterpiece but do they know what the novel is about?
Don Quixote of La Mancha is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615. It is counted not only as the most influential work of the Siglo de Oro and the entire Spanish literary canon but a masterpiece of the literary world in which the first modern novel can be considered. Here, bizarrely mixed, elements of the picaresque genre and of the epic-chivalric novel, in the style of Tirant lo Blanch and Amadís de Gaula, meet. The two protagonists, Alonso Chisciano (or Don Quixote) and Sancho Panza are among the most celebrated characters in the literature of all time.
The narrative pretext conceived by the author is the figure of the historian Cide Hamete Benengeli, of whom Cervantes claims to have found and had the aljamiado manuscript translated into Arabic, in which the events of Don Quixote are told. parodic, the invention of this unreliable narrator and other narrative filters intended to create ambiguity in the story is one of the most fortunate innovations introduced by Cervantes.
Cervantes’ work was published in 1605 when the author was 57 years old. The success was such that Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, pseudonym of a hitherto unknown author, published the continuation in 1614. Cervantes, disgusted by this sequel, decided to write another Don Quijote adventure – the second part – published in 1615 With over 500 million copies, it is the best-selling novel in history.
The protagonist of the story is a Spanish hidalgo named Alonso Quijano, morbidly fond of chivalrous novels. To discover the other characteristics of our hero it will be useful to read The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (1905) by Miguel de Unamuno, who however gives a very personal and partial reading and interpretation of the great novel. The readings condition the character to such an extent that they drag him into a fantasy world, in which he is convinced that he is called to become a knight-errant. He then sets out on a journey, like the heroes of novels, to defend the weak and right the wrongs. Alonso thus becomes the knight Don Quixote of La Mancha and begins to travel around Spain. In his madness, Don Quixote drags with him a local peasant, Sancho Panza, to whom he promises the government of an island as long as he acts as his squire.
Like all errant knights, Don Quixote feels the need to dedicate his exploits to a lady. He will do so by choosing Aldonza Lorenzo, a neighboring peasant woman, whom he transfigured into a noble lady and renamed Dulcinea del Toboso.
Unfortunately for Don Quixote, the Spain of his time is not that of chivalry or even that of picaresque novels, and for the only hero left there are very few adventures. However, his visionary obstinacy pushes him to read reality with different eyes. He will then begin to exchange windmills with giants with rotating arms, puppets with demons, flocks of sheep with Arab armies, which subjugated Spain to their dominion from 711 to 1492. He will fight these imaginary adversaries, always being soundly defeated, and arousing the hilarity of the people who witness his crazy deeds. Sancho Panza, for his part, will in some cases be the rational counterpart of the visionary Don Quixote, while in other situations he will be involved in the reasons of the master.
If you haven’t done so far, I higly reccomend to you this reading. It’s a cult!