Tomorrow evening there will be a special and rather unusual event: A play reading on the life of Miguel de Cervantes – a remarkable man, often described as the “first modern novelist” – on the 400th anniversary of his death. The reading will take place at the Red Bones Blues Cafe, 1 Argyle Road in Kingston on Thursday, September 29 at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free. Spanish wine from La Mancha, the land of Don Quixote, will be on special. The play will highlight the life and work of Cervantes and will be directed by Pierre Lemaire, supported by a cast and crew comprising lecturers, graduates and current students of the Edna Manley School of Drama. It is brought to you by the Embassy of Spain in Jamaica, in partnership with the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
In fact, in many ways Cervantes was one of those men – like Leonardo Da Vinci, and others – who was way ahead of his time. I am not sure if the word “Renaissance Man” is still used, but he was certainly one of them. Back in the early 1600s, Cervantes created one of the world’s literary masterpieces, Don Quixote – yes, the man who tilted at windmills. He had an eventful life – not the typical life of a great writer – and those were dangerous times in Europe. Born into a large, quite poor family in 1547, he may not have had much of a formal education. He became a soldier in 1570 and was badly wounded in the Battle of Lepanto against the Ottoman Turks (he lost the use of his left hand). He was captured in 1575 and spent five years in prison before a ransom was paid for him. Upon returning home, he wrote a romantic novel and plays that were not very well received. Then he had another spell in prison after being charged with mismanagement of supplies for the Spanish Armada. Poor man! However, this was the period when he started writing Don Quixote and produced a number of other literary works. The second part of Don Quixote was published in 1615, the year before his death at the age of 69.
But after his turbulent life, poor Señor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra could not even rest in peace. He was buried at at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid, but his remains went missing some time later. Very recently, a search began to find his remains (using the latest technology, how surprised Cervantes would be!) and last year what appeared to be his remains were discovered. On June 11, 2015, he was given a formal burial and a monument in Madrid. The Mayor and other dignitaries attended.
Cervantes has gone beyond the borders of Spain. He is embraced by many Latin American writers and is one of the most translated authors in the history of literature. Spanish language has been referred to as “the language of Cervantes.” Don Quixote is the second most translated book after the Bible; it has been translated into some indigenous languages in Latin America like Guaraní. Cervantes has had an amazing, universal appeal, catching the imagination of children and adults from different eras and cultures. His works reveal and announce the mysteries of the human soul: love, impossible dreams, lost causes, success and defeat. Who hasn’t ever had a dream love? Who hasn’t fought against windmills? Who has not defended impossible causes? As stated in the Broadway musical “I, Don Quixote”: Who hasn’t dreamed the impossible?
For those who are unfamiliar with his famous work, it is filled with energy – and a great deal of humor and satire. So do make a note in your diary, and come and support the Edna Manley School of Drama tomorrow evening.