Wednesday, 29 September 2010

On this day...

Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547. Little is known about Cervantes early life, bar baptism records, and the first glimpse we get of him is as a 22 year-old soldier in the Spanish navy. Hvaing been shot with three bullets in battles against the Turks, he was captured by Barbary pirates, ransomed after 5 years in captivity. Back in Spain, Cervantes married a girl 18 years his junior and worked sporadically, first as a purchasing agent for the Armada, and later as a tax collector. It wasn't long before Cervantes was again incarcerated, this time for irregularities in his accounts.

The adventure of his life was such, that any autobiographical work would have become an instant hit, but as it was, Cervantes turned his hand to ficiton, writing over 20 plays, and publishing his first major work 'La Galatea'. Yet his masterpiece, and, many argue, the first modern novel, is picaresque writing 'Don Quixote', called by Dostoevsky, 'the ultimate and most sublime work of human thinking'.

Yet Cervantes has interesting parallels with a writer closer to home. It seems that Shakespeare was influenced by Cervantes' work, so much so, that the Spanish author has even entered the Shakespeare authorship question, with some believing they were the same person, others believing that Francis Bacon wrote both. To complete the link, they both died on the same day, April 23rd 1616, leading UNESCO to designate it the International Day of the Book.

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