New Historian

Why the Discovery of Cervantes is Important

<![CDATA[A team of Spanish archaeologists confirmed on Tuesday that they had found the remains of Miguel de Cervantes at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, in Madrid. Housing the final burial place of one of the most important writers in Spanish history, who is often credited internationally as the 'father of the novel', it is likely to become a major tourist destination. Modern Spanish is sometimes referred to as the language of Cervantes. A look at his most famous work, Don Quixote, can provide an insight into just why Cervantes is considered so vital to Spanish culture, and explain the popularity that has led to the novel being translated into a multitude of different languages. Cervantes, whose remains were found in a grave containing fifteen other people buried between 1612 and 1630, lived a fascinating life that was comparable to his stories. The son of a poor doctor, he fought in the war between Spain and the Turks at the end of the sixteenth century. Cervantes was wounded, shot twice in the chest and losing the use of his left arm. He received a medal for his bravery and continued to fight for the Spanish army, until he and his brother were captured by pirates and sold as slaves to Algiers. Born in 1547, he lived during a crucial period in Spanish history, the decline of its Golden Age and the rise of the Reformation countries in Europe. This was a period which saw Spain exhaust the wealth gleaned from its colonies in the New World in a failed attempt to preserve its status in the Old. Don Quixote was a novel which directly engaged with this period of change, and attempted to make sense of it. It links back to romanticised ideas of nobility and chivalry, and attempts to place them into a contemporary context. The first section is almost nostalgic, describing Don Quixote and his assistant Sancho Panza living the romanticised lives of wandering knights. As they work through a series of fantastical quests and battles, Quixote sticks to a chivalric code, however outdated or invalid it might seem for that situation. The message seems to be that old morals and codes of conduct can still be applied in a drastically changing world. In the second part of the novel, Cervantes engages with issues of Spanish identity. The engagements between Quixote and the people he meets on his travels are deeply focused on individuals and personalities. Cervantes also engages with issues he viewed as damaging to Spain, providing commentary on a rigid outdated social hierarchy and the conservative Catholic Church. Don Quixote, and Cervantes life itself to an extent, seem fantastical. They appear to have been anachronisms from the age of adventure embodied by the Conquistadors in the New World. Equally, Cervantes, like his most famous character, also represented a continued nobility and sincerity in an ever changing society. It is little surprise that the discovery of his remains has gathered so much attention in Spain, and around the world.

Related Books

Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha
by Charles Jarvis

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