Cervantes Street

Cervantes Street

eBook - 2012
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"THE ACTUAL FACTS OF MIGUEL DE CERVANTES'S LIFE seem to be snatched from an epic tale: an impoverished and talented young poet nearly kills a man in a duel and is forced into exile; later, he distinguishes himself in battle and is severely wounded, losing the use of his left hand; on his way back to Spain his ship is captured by pirates and he is sold into slavery in Algiers; after prolonged imprisonment and failed escape attempts, he makes his way back home, eventually settling in a remote village in La Mancha to create his masterpiece, the first modern novel in Western literature: Don Quixote. TAKING THE BARE BONES OF CERVANTES'S LIFE, Jaime Manrique has accomplished a singular feat: an engaging and highly accessible interpretation of a brilliant, enigmatic man and his epoch. Manrique breathes vivid life into his characters, transporting readers viscerally into his story as he makes full use of its inherent suspense and drama, its pathos and ironies, its colorful locales and momentous events. IT ALL BEGINS WITH TWO BRIGHT YOUTHS IN MADRID whose rivalry over a beautiful woman will shape the course of their lives. Miguel de Cervantes is the passionate one, handsome, gifted, reckless, and ambitious, but from a family fallen on hard times and suspected of being "tainted" with Jewish blood. His classmate Luis de Lara, a wealthy but awkward aristocrat, as well as mediocre poet, from one of the most powerful families in Spain, is engaged to his beautiful cousin Mercedes. When twenty-two-year-old Miguel nearly kills someone in a tavern brawl, he is forced to flee to Seville, joining a troupe of traveling actors to escape a decree ordering that his right hand be cut off. As Luis endeavors to save his friend, he has occasion to introduce Miguel to his beloved Mercedes. To Luis's horror, he soon discovers that the two have fallen in love. Luis becomes consumed with hatred for his former friend and swears eternal revenge. FROM THAT MOMENT ON, the two go their separate ways, but their lives remain fatefully intertwined. The adventurous Miguel continues to visit Mercedes before going into exile; and although Mercedes eventually marries Luis, she never stops loving Miguel. The tormented Luis searches in vain to prove his superiority to his wife, and then to his son, and always with respect to his hated rival--as a poet and scholar; as a man of impeccable taste, character, and sensibilities. Completely unaware of Luis's masked hatred of him, Miguel continues throughout his life to seek assistance from his erstwhile friend, with disastrous results. Luis watches with festering envy Miguel's exploits as a soldier, as a servant of the crown, and above all as a writer; and he only finds pleasure in sporadic reports of his rival's darkest hours. TOLD IN ALTERNATING CHAPTERS BY THE OPPOSING PROTAGONISTS, Manrique's archetypal tale of rivalry and revenge is sure to garner comparisons to Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo, and, with its extraordinary recreation of the life and times of Cervantes, to Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Pirates and priests, ladies of the court and lowly prostitutes, warriors and slaves, and, yes, even the wonderful Sancho Panza are singularly brought to life in this brilliant depiction of Spain's Golden Age."-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Brooklyn, NY, USA : Akashic Books, 2012
ISBN: 9781617751400
Characteristics: data file
1 online resource (320 pages)
Additional Contributors: enki Library (Online service)

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DWIGHT A GREEN
Mar 11, 2016

The structure of "Cervantes Street" alternates chapters between the memoirs of Miguel Cervantes and his rich college friend Luis Lara (with the final chapter told by Lara’s secretary). The opening chapter of each friend sets the stage for what follows in the novel: Cervantes kills a man in a bar fight over his family’s honor and escapes to avoid imprisonment and having his right hand cut off. Lara, after finding out that Cervantes is in love with his intended fiancée, finances Cervantes’ escape, initially from Madrid and ultimately from Spain. What follows in Miguel’s chapters is a speculative biography touching on known points of his life and filling in the unknown with a possible narrative. The speculations include characters and incidents that surface in Cervantes’ plays and novels. Manrique covers Cervantes’ participation in the Battle of Lepanto and his captivity in Algiers for five years before returning to Spain.

While Miguel’s story proves interesting the addition of Luis Lara as Miguel’s archenemy, while almost comic-book like at times, provides the best twists and turns of the story. Lara’s hatred of Miguel colors almost everything he does, changing him into a bitter, warped man. Lara claims to have provided Miguel with the idea for "Don Quixote," although Cervantes’ section reflects how much was based on his own experiences.

Consistent with "Don Quixote," Manrique's novel contains a lot of irony. It’s a fun, sad story, often mixing both elements at the same time. Knowledge of Cervantes and his work isn’t necessary to enjoy "Cervantes Street," although it does help the reader understand more of the relevance of particular anecdotes and appreciate some of the storyline.

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