FSEM Digital Don Quixote
December 16, 2016
Review of Cervantes Based Books
The two books that I have chosen to write about from our groups display case are called Cervantes and The Cervantes Encyclopedia. I chose these two particular books because I thought it would be interesting to compare two interesting pieces that portrayed the life of the great Cervantes so accurately. I believe that biographies and encyclopedias are the best way to learn about a person and the life that they lived. Both of these books have a high credibility and to the best of my knowledge, are very accurate. I really enjoyed learning about Cervantes and his writing style this semester and reading what is known to be one of the best books ever written, Don Quixote.
The first book that I have chosen to review is called Cervantes. This book was written by Francisco Navarro Ledesma and it was published in 1905 and then much later translated into English and published in 1973. This book was published by Charterhouse located in New York. Before Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, he had somewhat of a troublesome life. He was imprisoned more than once for debt payments and other money problems and was even arrested for assault and battery at one point. Kirkus Review states that, “Ledesma does not mention it, but concentrates instead on the marvelous textures of what must have been his experience”. Kirkus also states that this book was written by Ledesma to really keep up with the spirit of this animated and appreciative life story. Kirkus also explains, “It was written for the third Cervantes centennial, to clear up the persistent (the still persistent) popular confusion of Quixote and his author.”
A New York Times article reviewing this book first looks into the vast similarities between Miguel de Cervantes and Shakespeare. Thomas G. Bergin of The New York Times writes, “Cervantes and Shakespeare have the same exuberant imagination, the same all but gluttonous delight in word manipulation, the same mingling of erudition with good sturdy lore of the simpler sort.” Bergin then goes on to state that we know more today about Cervantes than we do about Shakespeare. Bergin states, “We can even be quite certain that the Cervantes who wrote “Don Quixote” was the same Cervantes who was born in Alcalâ de Henares on Oct. 5, 1547, fought in the glorious battle of Lepanto, spent five years as a prisoner‐slave in Algiers and got into all kinds of difficulties, including a term in jail when he was requisition officer for the Armada.” Bergin then talks about how this book by Francisco Navarro Ledesma was one of the very first biographies ever published and how it is definitely something special since it can still attract readers of today. Thomas G. Bergin goes on to praise Ledesma by stating, “First of all much interest attaches to the nature of the endeavor and its time of genesis. Ledesma was not a scholar but rather a journalist and, without challenging his integrity as a historian, one may say that his book reads more like a historical novel—and a good one—than a biography.” This article by The New York Times makes Ledesma out to be a very highly respected author with a lot of knowledge and experience of Cervantes and his life.
The second book that I have chosen to review is called The Cervantes Encyclopedia. This book was written by Howard Mancing and published in the year of 1941. The Cervantes Encyclopedia was published by Greenwood Press, located in Westport Connecticut. This book is basically a guide of all of Cervantes’ achievements. All of these achievements are listed alphabetically. Also included in this book are entries of his works, characters, historical authors and artists of his time, and pretty much anything else that has ever been related to Miguel de Cervantes. Choice Review states, “Mancing’s overambitious compendium of lore about Cervantes’ life, works (including detailed synopses), times, antecedents, and influence is addressed to an excessively broad audience, from people who cannot identify Julius Caesar to those interested in Bakhtin’s theories of the novel.” Choice Review criticizes the encyclopedia however somewhat by saying that a list of catalog entries could have been useful.
Another review that I found is one by Booklist Review that also reviews The Cervantes Encyclopedia. This review states that there are two other encyclopedias about Cervantes, but this one by Mancing is the only one that is written in English. The other two encyclopedias are both written in Spanish. Booklist Review states, “The Cervantes Encyclopedia endeavors to put Cervantes and his works into, as Mancing states in the introduction, a series of contexts: historical, cultural, personal, literary, critical, textual and intertextual.” This review explains how there is a tremendous amount of consistency within the articles of this encyclopedia because Mancing is the sole author of the book. This article explains that the encyclopedia alphabetizes fictional characters like Sancho Panza by first name, while alphabetizing real people by their last name. Booklist Review states, “A chronology of events in Cervantes’ life precedes the entries, and there are a selected bibliography and a lengthy index at the end of the second volume.” The review makes clear that although the book may look like a high school level book because of its glossy front cover, it is actually of course a scholarly academic reference. I guess this just goes to show that in fact a person should never judge a book by its cover.
These two books about Cervantes are the two that I personally chose to write this review about. I handpicked these books because I thought that that they were the two most interesting out of all of the books that were in the exhibit in the library. These two books really contrasted well with each other because they were not both the same kind of book. One of them was a biography and one of them was an encyclopedia so I wasn’t reiterating the same information over and over again. Overall, I would definitely recommend both of these books to any one that is interested in either the life or the works of Miguel de Cervantes.
“Kirkus Review.” n.d. Kirkus. <https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/francisco-navarro-ledesma/cervantes-the-man-and-the-genius/>.
“Review by Booklist Review.” n.d. Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. <https://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Record/1256980/Reviews>.
“Review by Choice Review.” n.d. Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. <https://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Record/1256980/Reviews>.