Miguel de Cervantes, Literature as Life Which tells of the origins of our ingenious author In 1547, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is born in Alcalá de Henares son of Leonor de Cortinas and Rodrigo de Cervantes is the fourth of seven children His father was a surgeon, “a man who sets bones and treats slight illnesses” He is a keen reader and a great lover of plays performed in courtyard theatres with more imagination than resources As he himself recalled, “The stage decoration was an old blanket, drawn by two cords from one side to the other” By some accounts fleeing from justice, he goes to Rome and is taken into a cardinal’s service He travels round Italy, marvelling at the splendour of the Renaissance. He states in his play The Licenciate Vidriera (or Doctor Glass-Case): “With Florence [he] was infinitely delighted, as well for the pleasantness of its position, as for its sumptuous buildings, its fine river, agreeable streets But his adventurous spirit makes him ill-suited to palace life. “I am not fit to dwell in the palace, because I have some sense of shame left, and do not know how to flatter” his character Doctor Glass-Case states He joins the army Which treats of the great feats of Miguel de Cervantes He and his brother Rodrigo fight in the battle of Lepanto, which stems the expansion of the Turkish empire During combat a musket shot paralyses his left hand This earns him the nickname of “one-armed man of Lepanto” He later states in the preface to his “Exemplary Novels”: “As ugly as this wound may appear, he regards it as beautiful, having received it on the most memorable and sublime occasion which past times have over seen, or future times can hope to equal” While travelling home by ship, the two brothers are captured by Barbary pirates and taken to Algiers He spends five years there. He devises as many as four escape plans, all unsuccessful “For freedom one can and should risk one’s life”, he puts into Don Quixote’s mouth years later His family raise money, but not enough to free them both Miguel prefers his brother to be released With no hope of ever returning home, some Trinitarian friars pay the long-awaited ransom and he is freed at last Miguel is 33 years old In which Cervantes exchanges his sword for a pen He returns to Spain full of dreams, but peace entails as many battles as war His attempts to carve out a future and secure a place at court take him to cities like Lisbon and Oran He applies unsuccessfully for a post in the Americas Up to his eyes in debt, he marries Catalina de Palacios, a young woman of Esquivias, Toledo His experiences during these years will play a key role in writing “Don Quixote” His first work – the “Galatea”, a pastoral novel – is published in 1585 He enjoys a certain amount of success for his plays He states of his plays: “All of [them] were performed without meriting an offering of cucumbers or other projectiles” Which tells of the birth of the gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha Cervantes, now a tax collector in Andalusia, is accused of embezzlement and spends three months in prison in Seville There is reason to believe it was there that he had the idea of writing “Don Quixote”, as he states in the preface: “Just what might be begotten in a prison…” The novel is profoundly innovative as it is both funny and moving It has always delighted readers, and understandably so It’s the story of a friendship between a gentleman who is a keen reader and an illiterate peasant Never has a dialogue between two fictional characters said so much! It’s a boost when you’re down and food for thought on everyday life Don Quixote, a gentleman who challenges giants that turn out to be windmills, and his squire Sancho Panza who wants to rule an isle, enjoy amazing adventures in the real world, and all thanks to reading! The year it’s published, 1605, hundreds of copies fulfil the author’s dream: to travel to the Americas It’s not long before this exciting adventure spreads worldwide Where our author’s adventures end He scrapes a living with the help of his family But his rebellious streak and passion remain intact. He writes more than ever In 1613 he publishes the “Exemplary Novels” And later, in 1614, “Journey to Parnassus”, and in 1615 “Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes” and the second part of Don Quixote, which takes the merging of reality and fiction to new heights Miguel de Cervantes dies on April the 22nd, 1616 at the age of 68, leaving an oeuvre that will traverse borders and centuries In his posthumous novel , “The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda” he bids farewell in the dedication to the Conde de Lemos: “With one foot already in the stirrup, and with the agony of death upon me, great lord, I write to you” But his last words are quite different, true to his style: “Goodbye, humour; goodbye, wit; goodbye, merry friends; for I am dying and hope to see you soon, happy in the life to come” It’s been four hundred years since then.