Purdue News

June 22, 2006

Reference guide helps readers know the real 'Don Quixote'

Howard Mancing
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A new book by a Purdue University professor maps the complicated characters, history and ideas that make Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote" the most popular novel of all time.

"This 400-year old novel carries a striking set of claims," says Howard Mancing, professor of Spanish. "The novel is considered to have inspired more art, movies and plays than any other novel ever written. There is nothing like it in literature.

"Unfortunately, its size can be daunting and deter many readers from reading it. So, this reference guide is written for people reading 'Don Quixote' for the first time," Mancing says.

"Cervantes' Don Quixote: A Reference Guide" (Greenwood Press, $65) is Mancing's second book on Don Quixote. The reference guide looks at the psychology of the characters and explains the humor and plays on words in the original Spanish text. Mancing also wrote "The Cervantes Encyclopedia."

Mancing book
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The novel, which was published in 1605, is about an idealistic old knight-errant best known for jousting with windmills. Often considered the first modern novel, "Don Quixote" has been translated into more than 80 languages.

"Unfortunately, the English translations do not highlight the amazing stylistics of the original language," says Mancing, who has read the book dozens of times in Spanish. "People do not need to understand Spanish to read 'Don Quixote,' but this reference guide highlights some of the humor, satire and wit in the Spanish text."

The reference guide also includes information about Cervantes' life, history of the era when the novel takes place, description of how Cervantes created characters and scenery and the novel's reception in other countries. Mancing says it's important to connect history, culture and language to understand how Cervantes is criticizing the honor code of the 17th century during the decline and fall of Spain as a global power.

"In 'Don Quixote,' Cervantes reflects the contemporary concern with the purity of blood in family lines because people of his time had to prove they were Spanish and that their family lines did not include Moorish or Jewish heritage," Mancing says. "Cervantes' family likely had converted to Judaism so they had a difficult time being accepted in Spain."

Mancing also wrote a prologue for a Spanish novel, "La mujer de Cervantes," which means Cervantes' wife, by María Luz Melcón. It is a story about the women in Cervantes' life, including his wife, mother-in-law and daughter. The book, published by Word & Image Press, was released this summer.

Mancing also is serving as a consultant on an upcoming Spanish film "El embrujo del Quijote," which is rooted in a literary conspiracy theory that Cervantes did not write Don Quixote.

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, (765) 494-9723, apatterson@purdue.edu

Source: Howard Mancing, (765) 496-1683, mancing@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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