Miguel de Cervantes painting circa 1800, attributed to Cornelis van Haartem, PD –
by Rose Maramba
Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcala de Henares, 35 Km northeast of the Spanish capital, on 29 September 1547. A good 17 years later, in 1564, William Shakespeare was born in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England.
Cervantes, known as the world’s greatest novelist in the Spanish language, wrote Don Quixote of La Mancha, Europe’s first modern novel, published 16 January 1605. It is among the best works, ever, in the history of literature. Preeminent writer-philosopher Fyodor Dostoevsky of the Golden Age of Russian literature said it was “the ultimate and most sublime work of human thinking.”
There’s no doubt about Cervantes’ authorship of this literary masterpiece, and the others he wrote. (He was productive.)
Shakespeare, poet (the Bard of Avon), playwright and actor, was prolific, producing +38 plays (including Anthony and Cleopatra and The Comedy of Errors) and +150 poems. He is regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. But some doubting Thomases wonder if he was really just one man.
Both Cervantes’ and Shakespeare’s time was the Golden Age of their respective countries’ history, the Habsburg and Elizabethan Eras.
Cervantes´contribution to the building of the Spanish nation is significant, considering that language is a crucial element of a nation. He so greatly influenced the development of the Spanish language that the Spanish has come to be known as la lengua de Cervantes or “the language of Cervantes.”
On 23 April 1616 Cervantes died. He was buried in Madrid, in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians. In 1995 UNESCO designated 23 April as World Book Day in his honor, as much as Shakespeare’s who, by some amazing coincidence, died on the same date, always taking into consideration that Spain was using the Gregorian calendar while England adhered to the Julian.
The National Library Honors Cervantes with an Outstanding Exhibition
on his 400th Death Anniversary
“Exposición Miguel de Cervantes: De la vida al mito (1616-2016)”
The extraordinary exhibits are loaned by the National Library of Spain which owns the world’s biggest collection of Cervantes pieces, as well as the Archivo Histórico Nacional, the Real Academia Española, the Archivo de Simancas, the Prado Museum, the Ayuntamiento de Alcalá de Henares, the National Library of France and the British Museum.
4 March – 22 May 2016
Monday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
Sundays and Holidays: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Sala Recoletos, Biblioteca Nacional de España
Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22
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