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Miguel de Cervantes Birth Anniversary: Interesting Facts About His Novel Don Quixote

If there is one work that Cervantes is best known by, it has to be his novel Don Quixote which has been translated into over 140 languages and dialects.

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Updated:September 29, 2019, 1:50 PM IST
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Miguel de Cervantes Birth Anniversary: Interesting Facts About His Novel Don Quixote
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Widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world's best novelists, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born on September 29, 1547. Author of a number of works, he was dubbed El príncipe de los ingenios or The Prince of Wits for his amazing writing style.

Notably, he wrote the workman Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels) in 1613, Viaje del Parnaso (Journey to Parnassus) in 1614, and Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (The Travails of Persiles and Sigismunda), which was published posthumously in 1617.

However, if there is one work that Cervantes is best known by, it has to be his novel Don Quixote which has been translated into over 140 languages and dialects; and is, after the Bible, the most-translated book in the world. A classic of the western literature, Don Quixote is sometimes considered to be both the first modern novel and the best work of fiction ever written.

The novel sees the adventures of a noble (hidalgo) from La Mancha named Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to become a knight-errant (caballero andante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who follows him in his misadventures.

Here are a few interesting points about the novel.

Cervantes came up with the story while he was in jail. A tax collector for the Spanish government in his early days, frequent "mathematic irregularities" landed Cervantes in the Crown Jail of Seville twice between 1597 and 1602. It is believed that he thought of the novel during this time.

The book had a major influence on the literary community, as evidenced by direct references in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844), Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1897).

It led to the coining of the term quixotic and the epithet Lothario; the latter refers to a character in the book "El curioso impertinente".

The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer cited Don Quixote as one of the four greatest novels ever written.

Cervantes names his main character after his wife's great uncle Alonso de Quesada y Salazar. Cervantes' wife's name was Catalina de Salazar y Palacios.

A burlesque on the surface, the novel stands in a unique position between the medieval chivalric romance and the modern novel exemplified through the disconnected stories featuring the same character with little exploration of the main character's psyche for the former and psychological evolution of their characters for the latter.

The English idiom Tilting at Windmills is derived from Don Quixote. The idiom means attacking imaginary enemies. The word "tilt" means jousting.

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