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Spain commemorates Cervantes anniversary

Associated Press Associated Press 23/04/2016

Spain has commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of its best-known writer, Miguel de Cervantes.

Events took place throughout the country on Saturday celebrating the author of Don Quixote, one of the most influential books in world literature and a work generally regarded as the precursor of the modern novel.

In Alcala de Henares, Cervantes' birthplace, King Felipe VI honoured Mexican author Fernando del Paso with the Cervantes Prize and Spain's Culture Minister Inigo Mendez highlighted his "contribution to the development of the novel, combining tradition and modernity, as Cervantes did."

The Cervantes award is handed out each year on April 23.

It coincides with UNESCO's World Book Day, which promotes literature and commemorates Cervantes and English playwright William Shakespeare, who died on that date in 1616.

Cervantes actually died on April 22, 1616, but Spain commemorates his death on the date he was buried.

Some artists and academics have been critical of Spain's central government for not allocating funds to organise events on a scale similar to those celebrating Shakespeare's life in Britain.

A fusion of fantasy and reality, the Don Quixote narrates the journeys and adventures by its hero and his mule-straddling squire, Sancho Panza.

Alonso Quijano is an unremarkable gentleman who, after immersing himself in countless books about adventurous knights, decides to become one himself.

Taking the name Don Quixote de La Mancha, he mounts his nag Rocinante and ventures out from a nameless village in the heart of Spain to right the wrongs of the world and defend the oppressed.

He is clearly mad and mistakes inns for enchanted castles, peasant girls for stunning princesses and confuses windmills with malevolent giants.

Sancho knows his master's judgment is unsound, but he sticks by him.

The book has been a best-seller in many languages since it was first published in December 1604.

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