Monday, February 22, 2016

Tilting at Windmills - The Life of Cervantes

Cervantes' novel Don Quixote is "the best book in the world". However the imagined chivalric adventures of Don Quixote are as nothing compared to the real-life adventures of the novel's author Miguel de Cervantes.

Cervantes was born in Spain. In his early twenties he moved to Rome to work in the house of a cardinal. He then enlisted as a Spanish soldier and was injured at the Battle of Lepanto. In 1575 Cervantes was captured by Barbary pirates. He tried, unsuccessfully, to escape four times. Eventually, after five long years of captivity. Cervantes's parents paid a ransom and our hero was released.

In 1581 Cervantes traveled to North Africa, possibly as a Spanish spy or diplomat. After this Cervantes settled down a little. He was sent to jail (for selling wheat without authorization). He got married (shortly after having an illicit child with the wife of another man). He was imprisoned again (because of the disappearance of some Crown money). He wrote Don Quixote. He died.

I know all of this thanks to a fascinating story map which recounts the life of Miguel de Cervantes. The IV Centenario de la Muerte de Cervantes celebrates the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes by plotting the life and movements of the Spanish author on an interactive map.

The map also includes the dates and locations of a number of events, which are being held in Spain this year, to celebrate the life and work of this extraordinary author.

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