Five bonkers ways Spain is commemorating Cervantes

This April 23rd will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Spain's greatest literary figure. So how does Spain choose to celebrate?

Five bonkers ways Spain is commemorating Cervantes
Spain has come up with some unusual ways to celebrate. Photo: Portrait by Juan de Jauregui y Aguilar/Wikimedia

The 400 years since the death of Spain’s beloved literary giant has seen his reputation grow into the undisputed greatest man of letters in the history of the nation.

It doesn’t matter that most Spaniards haven’t read Don Quixote, the epic adventure credited with being the first modern novel.

Nor does it matter that the 400-year anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes' death is in danger of being just slightly overshadowed by celebrations of his English rival William Shakespeare, whose death is commemorated on the exact same date (although because of calendar differences back in the day, the two writers actually died some ten days apart).

READ MORE: Nine reasons why Cervantes is better than Shakespeare

There are hundreds of events going on throughout the year across Spain and beyond to commemorate his life and work, from plays to readings to exhibitions.

But there are also some rather unusual ways of marking his achievements.

1. Tweeting his most famous work

Someone thought it would be fun to put the entire work of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the epic tale of Spain’s rather confused knight errant, on Twitter.

So if you can’t quite bring yourself to pick up the volume itself, then help is at hand, for Diego Buendía has spent the last 17 months tweeting out 140 characters of the novel each hour (or rather he designed a computer programme to do it for him).

Check out @elquijote1605 for the 17,000 tweets it takes to share the entire opus.

2. Making a giant Don Quixote in marzipan

Photo: Spanish Sabores.

If you are partial to the taste of almonds, then you will just love the unusual memorial to the author that is being prepared in the city of Toledo.

On Saturday at noon in the plaza Zocodover, the largest ever – yup ever – marzipan representation of Don Quixote will be unveiled. Made from the city’s famous delicacy, confectioners have spent more than 500 hours crafting the representation which measures 3.5 meters in height and weighs 600kgs.

3. Giving him psychoanalysis

Don Quixote goes mad. Engraving by Gustave Doré 

Unfortunately for poor old Don Quixote, psychoanalysis didn’t exist in 1605 when the book was published. Anyone who has read the book may have come to the conclusion that the dear old knight, though mostly harmless, wasn’t quite right in the head.

READ MORE: Seven great ways to celebrate 400 years of Cervantes

Thankfully, one of Spain’s leading psychiatrists has taken time away from his own patients to analyse the character.

Dr Tiburcio Angosto Saura of Vithas Nuestra Señora de Fátima Hospital in Vigo, Galicia has written in a report that “he suffered from depression and psychosis and had he been alive today would undoubtedly have ended up in an asylum”. 

 4. Reading it to the lions

Photo: Fiona Govan

In one of the more bizarre stunts to raise awareness of the Cervantes celebrations, the famous stone lions which stand guard outside Spain’s parliament building have been given reading glasses – supposedly so they can pore over the text of Don Quixote.

If that doesn’t get Spain reading the book that only 21 percent of Spaniards have read in its entirety, what will?

5. Creating food inspired by Don Quixote


MasterChef, the Spanish popular amateur cooking TV competition and a spin-off from the BBC version, will next week dedicate an entire episode in honour of Cervantes, when contestants will be asked to come up with dishes inspired by the book.

Will Gregg Wallace and John Torode be asking British candidates to do the same to honour Shakespeare?

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Finally! Terry Gilliam finishes ‘Don Quixote’ film project that took 17 years

Terry Gilliam, the US-born director famous for a string of dark fantasy films, has finally finished his version of Don Quixote... after 17 years battling one disaster after another.

Finally! Terry Gilliam finishes 'Don Quixote' film project that took 17 years
Photo: Terry Gilliam / Facebook

“Sorry for the long silence…,” he posted laconically to Facebook on Sunday.

“After 17 years, we have completed the shoot of THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE. Muchas gracias to all the team and believers. QUIXOTE VIVE!” (Quixote lives!)

Gilliam said he and his crew had just finished shooting in Spain. But it has been a long haul for the director of “Brazil” and “Twelve Monkeys”.  

Like the aging knight at the centre of Miguel de Cervantes' classic tale, Gilliam, now 76, has had to deal with one mishap after another to complete his quest.

READ ALSO: Most Spaniards have never read Don Quixote

His first tilt at adapting the 17th-century novel was with US star Johnny Depp and French actors Jean Rochefort and Vanessa Paradis.  

That came to grief back in 2000, hit by a string of setbacks that included torrential rain and constant flyovers by military jets from a nearby NATO base.    

To top it all, Rochefort, whose role as Quixote required riding a horse, developed back problems that put him out of action.    

The new version features British actor Jonathan Pryce as Quixote. He starred in Gilliam's 1985 hit “Brazil”, but is perhaps better known to younger viewers as the High Sparrow in the “Game of Thrones” television series.

Also on board is US actor Adam Driver, the villain in the latest Star Wars film; and the Ukrainian-born French actress Olga Kurylenko (“Quantum of Solace”).

The history of Gilliam's disastrous first attempt to film his Quixote project has passed into film folklore: there is even a 2002 documentary, “Lost in La Mancha”, that tells the whole sorry story.

Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, originally hired to do a making-of film to accompany the finished product, finally managed to salvage an award-winning documentary from Gilliam's disastrous shoot.

But Gilliam, like the steadfast Quixote, refused to surrender.    

The former member of the Monty Python team, and a specialist in absurd fantasies such “Jabberwocky” and “Time Bandits”, pushed on with his project.    

“Shooting my version of Don Quixote is a medical obligation,” he told the Spanish daily El Pais last year. “It's a brain tumour I have to eradicate.” 

READ MORE: DIsney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie