MADRID – Mexican author Jose Emilio Pacheco – winner of the 2009 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world’s equivalent of the Nobel literature prize – kicked off this year’s “Don Quixote” marathon on Thursday.
The event coincides with the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day on April 23 – the anniversary of the death of both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare – and is held every year at Madrid’s Circle of Fine Arts cultural center.
The 48-hour marathon began with Pacheco reading the novel’s famous first line: “In a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall ...”
After his turn was over, the Mexican hailed “Don Quixote” – known for its universality and susceptibility to a wide range of interpretations – for its “capacity for metamorphosis, which no other book has.”
According to Pacheco, “Don Quixote” – published in two volumes a decade apart, in 1605 and 1615 – is a perfect illustration that “books do not have a single meaning; there are as many meanings as there are readers.”
“I would have liked very much to have been (the insanely chivalrous) Don Quixote, although it would be very arrogant on my part to say that I’ve ever seen myself in him,” the author said.
As has become a tradition at this annual event, now in its 14th edition, numerous leading figures in the world of politics and culture took turns reading one paragraph from Cervantes’s masterpiece.
This year’s dignitaries have included Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and the head of the culture ministry, Angeles Gonzalez Sinde.
Gonzalez Sinde told the press after reading her section that “Don Quixote” remains important to this day because “it is a book that all Spanish speakers share,” adding that it “has been generating interest, amusing, entertaining and teaching” for more than 400 years.
Pacheco will receive the Cervantes Prize Friday from Spain’s King Juan Carlos at a ceremony at the University of Alcala de Henares, just outside Madrid. EFE