Don Quixote

The 17th century novel Don Quixote was originally written in which language?

And the answer: Spanish.

"Don Quixote and Sancho Panza at a crossroad," by Wilhelm Marstrand, 1847, Nivaagaard Museum, Denmark.

Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes published Don Quixote in two parts, one in 1605 and the second 10 years later. It tells the story of an aging knight who sets out on his horse, with his pragmatic servant named Sancho Panza, to seek adventure. The book is considered the first modern novel, and continues to be one of the most popular books in the world.

“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember…”

With perhaps some of the most famous lines in Spanish literature, Don Quixote cracks open the cover of the first modern novel. The book follows the epic quest of the eponymous main character, who travels with his servant to seek adventures akin to those which he has read in books. By imitating his literary heroes, Don Quixote de la Mancha finds new truths about the nature of adventure, and the nature of self. All the while, author Cervantes gives voice to shockingly modern questions of morality, to nuanced irony, and a vast array of characters and beliefs.

Don Quixote has inspired authors, playwrights and creators for centuries. In 1614, even before the second part was published, a ballet inspired by Cervantes' work was performed in Paris. Since then, composers like Purcell, Salieri, Strauss, Piccinni, Mendelssohn, Ravel and Falla have looked for inspiration for their operas, concerts, ballets and chamber music in “Don Quixote.” Cervantes is sometimes referred to as “Spanish Shakespeare” for his contributions to literature and the larger literary canon. Writers such as Goethe, Thomas Mann, Stendhal, Flaubert, Melville, Twain and many modern Spanish-American writers have used Don Quixote as a model both in terms of structure and narrative.

Learn more about the legacy and story of Don Quixote below.


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The Prime Meridian
Marian Anderson
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