Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cervantes: Just enough sanity

A sketch by Pablo Picasso depicting Don Quixote
and Sancho Panza in front of a field of windmills,
which Don Quixote mistakes for evil giants.
Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares in 1547.  For comparison, St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in the United States, was not founded until 1565.  In the present day, Cervantes Day is a holiday in Spain, and we will get a day off from class while we’re in Alcalá (As Amanda said, could you imagine if we had off for Mark Twain Day?).  Cervantes is famous for a novel he published more than four hundred years ago, and Don Quixote is still widely considered one of the greatest literary works of all time.
I read Don Quixote in high school on the recommendation of my Spanish teacher and I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s about an older Spanish gentleman who reads too many tales of chivalry.  As the story goes, “…with little sleeping and much reading his brains dried up to such a degree that he lost the use of his reason.”  He, his horse Rocinante, and his reluctant squire Sancho Panza have many ridiculous knightly adventures, generally causing more trouble than they’re worth.  It’s highly entertaining, but thought-provoking at the same time.  Don Quixote’s madness highlights the problems with both chivalry and a world that lacks it.

I am looking forward to learning more about Miguel de Cervantes while living in the city of his birth.  In addition to his famous novel, I also like a lot of quotations by Cervantes.  To close, here are a few examples:
“Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.”

“One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this.”

“There is no greater folly in the world than for a man to despair.”

Last but not least, my favorite:
“Too much sanity may be madness, and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

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