In 1605, the first volume of the most influential piece of Spanish literature was published. Indeed, it is today considered one of the greatest works of literature ever written in any language. Its full title in Spanish is El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, or The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha. The novel by Cervantes follows the adventures of Alonso Quijano, who reinvents himself as Don Quixote and embarks on a quest to revive chivalry, accompanied by his squire, Sancho Panza.
Cervantes was undoubtedly a master storyteller, but we want to focus on the language of Don Quixote, which helped to make it the masterpiece it is, and was also instrumental in cementing the position that Spanish enjoys today. The name of the main character is a play on words in several different ways, not least because of its hint at a combination of the name Quijano with the Spanish augmentative suffix -ote, suggesting ‘The Great Quijano’, which is particularly apt given the character’s delusions of grandeur. The central character speaks in Old Castilian, a medieval form of Spanish he copies from his chivalric books, though the people he meets struggle to understand him as a result – the humorous effect being much admired at the time of publication.
The novel gave rise to many well-known Spanish phrases and is even thought to be the origin of the English saying ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’, derived from a not entirely accurate 1700 translation of the book when in fact the original text actually read ‘You will see when the eggs are fried’. If you haven’t discover this classic yet, you really should put it on your must-read list, in English at first perhaps, then later with the help of Spanish Lessons you can enjoy the novel as it was originally written.