Events have been organized all over Spain to remember the country's best-known writer, Miguel de Cervantes. Cervantes' Don Quixote is considered one of the most influential books in world literature.
On Saturday, Spain's King Felipe VI honored Mexican author Fernando del Paso with the Cervantes prize, awarded for del Paso's "contribution to the development of the novel, combining tradition and modernity, as Cervantes did."
The Cervantes award is handed out on April 23 every year, celebrated as UNESCO World Book Day in the honor of the 400th anniversaries of two epic playwrights' deaths, Cervantes and William Shakespeare.
Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza
On Friday, teams of "literary commandos" stormed the Madrid metro to read short texts to commuters as part of World Book Night celebrations. "We library rats are solitary people. We wanted to make reading something that can be shared, like a good meal," Eva Sagardoy, a member of one of the teams, told reporters.
An unlikely journey
Cervantes, who died 400 years ago, had a very eventful life. He was born in 1547 as the son of a poor doctor in Alcala de Hanares, east of Madrid. In 1571, he joined Spain's marine fleet of Lepanto, but was wounded in a sea battle near the Greek coast. Four years later, he and his brother were kidnapped and imprisoned in North Africa for five years.
After he returned to Spain, he married Catalina de Salazar and worked as a tax collector and supplier for the army. Financial irregularities however meant that the author had to spend some time in jail.
The first part of Cervantes' Don Quixote was released in 1605 and was an immediate success. The second half of the book was published ten years later. Despite his epic productions, Cervantes financial woes never came to an end. He died a poor man on April 22, 1616.
mg/rc (dpa, AP)