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Seven great ways to celebrate 400 years of Cervantes

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Celebrate Cervantes' masterpiece this year. Photo: Portrait by Juan de Jauregui y Aguilar/Wikimedia
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It's been 400 years since the death of Spain's beloved literary star and Spain has a seemingly unending schedule of celebrations. We take a look at some of the best ways to join in the fun.

He is one of Spain's most famous writers and rivals William Shakespeare for the influence he has had on literature. So it's no surprise that Spain is now getting into gear to celebrate 400 years since Miguel de Cervantes died on April 23rd 1616.

There are parties, concerts, exhibits and more planned all around the world throughout the year, so we bring you a glimpse of the best ways to get into the literary spirit.

1. Read Don Quixote


Photo: Fiona Govan

The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is regarded as the first modern novel and has had much influence on the literary world beyond Spanish class reading lists.

The two-volume book, about a man who loses his sanity and embarks on a knightly quest to restore chivalry, pioneered techniques such as realism, metatheatre (theatre which draws attention to its unreality, like a play within a play) and intertextuality (the shaping of a text's meaning by another text).

READ: Nine reasons why Cervantes is better than Shakespeare

It even coined a new word, quixotic, which means extremely idealistic, or unrealistically impractical.

Sure, a poll last summer found that most Spaniards had never read the novel all the way through, but what better time to take a stab at the classic work than during all the Cervantes hullabaloo this year?

2. Visit his town 


The statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza outside Cervantes' birthplace in Alcalá de Henares. Photo: AWa/Wikimedia

Cervantes was born in the Castilian city of Alcalá de Henares, located 35km northeast of Madrid. The local university and historical centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site, often praised for its beautiful architecture and being the first city to be designed and built solely around a university, becoming a model for unversity towns worldwide.

With such a rich academic tradition, it's no wonder the town is so stoked to celebrate its native son.

3. Do the Cervantes tour


Follow in the footsteps of the great man himself. Photo: Portrait by Juan de Jauregui y Aguilar/Wikimedia

Alcalá de Henares offers visitors a planned route to find the places the author once frequented, like the house where he was born, the church where he was baptized and other real-life places that helped inspire his fictional works. 

4. Take the Cervantes train


Photo: turismomadrid.es

Another way to discover Cervantes' home is by taking the Cervantes train, on which costumed actors will lead you through the city and provide authentic local pastries.

5. See a play (or ballet)

The comedy Cervantina will be performed on a number of different stages around Spain until May 28th.

The National Dance Company of Spain is also performing a "Ballet Don Quixote" in Valencia until May 15th. After Valencia, the dance troupe will also make stops in Sant Cugat del Vallès outside Barcelona, Bilbao, Murcia, Almagro and Valladolid.

6. Analyze cinema


Photo: 400cervantes.es

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The Museo Casa Cervantes in Valladolid has a schedule of "cinema Mondays" dedicated to Cervantes and Shakespeare. The museum will be hosting a series of talks discussing various attempts to adapt Cervantes' work for the silver screen. 

Monty Python's Terry GIllam has famously continued to fail to finish a film based on Don Quixote's characters called The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, eventually creating a documentary about his struggle called Lost in La Mancha.

Orson Welles also never finished a feature film on the novel before his death in 1985.

7. Admire some artwork and 'follow Cervantes' footsteps'


Photo: 400cervantes.es

A number of venues around the country are exhibiting artwork inspired by the author, including an exhibit in various cities called Miguel EN Cervantes, featuring illustrated comics based on El Retablo de las Maravillas (The Altarpiece of Wonders) - an interlude Cervantes wrote in 1615 - in Esquivas, Toledo and Valladolid.

Madrid is featuring a gallery of playing cards based on Don Quixote as well as an exhibit of work by a photographer who "followed in Cervantes' footsteps," visually retracing the writer's steps through places and paths he visited throughout his life.

For all official events celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of Cervantes check out the website www.400cervantes.es

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