June 27

"Tilting at Wind-Farms" - a new concept for a new age

This tale should have been told in "A Journey In Time", which attempts to record the entire (known) history of this date; but the book was long written by then, and this particular event had never once appeared in any of the almanacs or other sources that I had consulted. Until now.

I found it in Alberto Manguel's absolutely splendid "The Library At Night", in which he undertakes his own somewhat quixotic journey, not so much into the texts as into the business of collecting them, especially in libraries. On page 182 he records the following:

“In Valladolid, readers of Don Quixote can stroll through the house occupied by Miguel de Cervantes from 1602 to 1605, the year in which the first part of the novel was published, and experience a voyeuristic thrill. The house has melodramatic associations: on the night of 27 June 1605, a certain Gaspar de Ezpeleta was walking home when, just outside this house, he was assaulted by a masked man and mortally wounded. Ezpeleta managed to cry out, bringing to his assistance a neighbour who in turn summoned Cervantes, and the two carried the dying man to the address of a well-known lady. The mayor of Valladolid, suspecting Cervantes (or one of his relatives) of being responsible for the attack, ordered that the writer and his family be imprisoned. They were released a few days later, after proving their innocence, but historians have long debated the question of Cervantes’ involvement in the murder.”
I read this story in Toronto, at the end of 2007. It was, as I have noted above, the first I had ever heard of the incident, or the allegation. My own murder story about Cervantes ("The Knight’s Story" in "The Captive Bride", page 15), which chose Cervantes entirely randomly to illustrate a literary conceit, was written in Bristol, in 1992:

The Knight's Story

Because of Don Miguel and his childlike imagination - his tilting at the windmills of literature - all the world today believes that the Quixote was, yes a comic figure, but essentially a gentle, honest, good, well-meaning man, whose failing virtue was simply that he dreamed beyond his stature and aspired to heights of human chivalry that he could not possibly hope to scale. Supreme faults! Laudatory vices! Immaculate failures! Who more noble than the Quixote - unless perhaps Don Miguel himself, for imagining him?
But it was, truly, imagination. I, Don Pedro de la Santa Milanerva, I alone know the truth, I alone knew the real Quixote - the one who raped the twelve year old Dulcinea Castillano and robbed the house of Don Sancho Panza - a bad, a wicked, a truly evil man, no fool either, but a cruel schemer, who drank, and whored, and stole, stole even from the very poorest and from the whores that he himself had bought.
I knew him, and once I might have killed him and been thanked for it, when I came upon him in the barn of my own villa, forcing his will at knife-point on a serving-girl. But I did not kill him. The young Miguel and the by-then middle-aged Quixote were both guests in my house, and I knew the Quixote, but I knew the young Miguel much better, a mere boy still, but with an imagination of extraordinary fecundity, one that bent towards goodness quite as keenly as the Quixote’s bent towards licentiousness. I let the Quixote live, allowed him a further month in my house to seduce the young Miguel’s imagination with half-truths and concocted tales, or tales from which he had stripped the vilest details like a highway corpse.
Would the world really have thanked me for killing him? No, it would have been better to kill the serving-girl, to stop her doing what eventually she did - inform the magistrate of what the Quixote had done to her. So he was condemned to die, and his body ascended into the ephemeral fire, and his soul descended into the eternal one; but by then it no longer mattered. Already my young protégé was practicing his craft, already his imagination had begun to reinvent, already his pen had begun to weave its magical fables; already the authentic Don Quixote was being supplanted by the mythical one. No, I was right not to interfere when I came upon him in that act of sin. Much more than that - for in that moment of not killing an evil man, did I not, myself, give birth to a truly saintly one?

Regrets that I am unable to acknowledge the maker of the splendid cartoon at the top of this page. I found it, by random google-search, here. If you know who the cartoonist was, please contact me and I will happily update this page with a full congratulation. The caption beneath it belongs to me.

You can find Don Quijote, in his Spanish spelling, on a journey through modern America, by clicking here.

And two more dates that didn't make it into "A Journey In Time":

Edward Gibbon completed "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", today in 

Route 66 was decertified, today in 
1985. Last kicks here! 

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