Fighting windmills – new virtual exhibition on Don Quixote at the University Library

The virtual exhibition ‘Fighting windmills: the many interpretations of Don Quixote’ was launched yesterday to commemorate Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s 400th death anniversary. It features some rarely seen and beautifully illustrated material from a wide number of collections within the University Library, and its main aim is to highlight some of the ways in which Don Quixote has been appropriated by readers, artists and other writers throughout the centuries.
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Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Don Quixote of the Mancha’; London: Blackie&Son, 1900 (Waddleton.c.9.615)

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1547-1616

Cervates_jauregui

Attributed to Juan de Jáuregui y Aguilar (circa 1583 – 1641) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Although we are not sure this is actually Cervantes, many subsequent portraits were based on this one.

Four hundred years ago on this day Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the most influential writer in the Spanish language, died in Madrid. This blogpost gives a taste of the future online exhibition that will feature the rich variety of material held at the Library by, and related to, Cervantes. We hold multiple versions and interpretations of everything that he wrote, but of course most of it relates to his masterpiece, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

Little is known about the birth of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, but he was baptised in Alcalá de Henares on October 9, 1547. The first part of his life was adventurous, marked by travels around the Mediterranean and 5 years of captivity in the hands of Ottoman pirates before his return to Spain in 1580. There, he remained unsuccessful in his attempts at supporting himself through his writing (although he won first prize – three silver spoons – in a poetry competition in 1595). All would change with the publication of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. Continue reading

The secret lives of a poet: Olga Orozco

Browsing through our recently received Spanish books I came across the weird-looking cover of Yo, Claudia, a collection of articles published in the Argentinian monthly magazine Claudia, roughly between 1966 and 1970.

Yo, Claudia gathers a selection of letters and essays written by the poet Olga Orozco (1920-1999), who, during her life, undertook many jobs to

support her literary interests, from journalist to radio drama actress. Her work for Claudia, however, is particularly interesting. Claudia’s readership was interested in articles on fashion, entertainment, art, politics and literature, written by some of the most prominent intellectuals of the time. What originally was an asset eventually became a problem when in 1976 the publisher had to flee to Brazil, as it was accused by the Argentinian regime of supporting subversive journalists. Orozco’s collaboration was certainly valued, although, in order to please the publisher, she had to conceal her identity under eight different pseudonyms, each one for a different column. Continue reading

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano (source)

Eduardo Galeano (source)

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano passed away on 13 April 2015, aged 74. He started his career in journalism, but came to greater prominence in 1971 with what remains his best-known work, Las venas abiertas de América Latina (original: 220.d.97.88; translation: 670:8.c.95.866), a history of Latin America from the time of Columbus onwards, focusing on the economic exploitation and military oppression that had shaped the continent. This book remained popular and respected throughout the decades, and even became an unexpected bestseller in 2009, when the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez publicly gifted a copy to Barack Obama.

Galeano had a long and varied writing career, throughout which he tried to bring to light the usually unwritten history of Latin America and the world – that of the victims, the poor and the downtrodden – as he felt that without acknowledging and understanding this, governments and nations could never truly progress. His outspoken socialist stance unsurprisingly put him at odds with the right-wing dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. He first fled Uruguay and then Argentina in the mid-1970s, and wrote another of his most famous works, Memoria del fuego (original: 670:8.c.95.547-9; translation: 9743.c.334-336), whilst in exile. Continue reading

J.B. Trend, first Professor of Spanish at Cambridge

The civilization of Spain

The civilization of Spain. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. 9582.d.162.

John Brande Trend (1887-1958) was the first Professor of Spanish at Cambridge University. He was appointed to the chair of Spanish in 1933. His friendship with Edward Joseph Dent, Professor of Music at Cambridge between 1926 and 1941, was to play an instrumental part in Trend’s passion for Hispanism. His first degree was in Natural Sciences, but he soon developed a keen interest in Spanish life and culture and would later become a prime figure in Spanish musicology. Trend admired Luís de Góngora, one of the most influential poets of the Golden Age, and Manuel de Falla, possibly the greatest Spanish composer of the twentieth century. Continue reading