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Actually if you were to know of only one Spanish novelist (which would be a shame), you probably could not pick a more interesting individual than Cervantes.

Cervantes was born in 1547 in the town of Alcalá de Henares.  He became a soldier in Italy in 1570 and lost the use of his left hand in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.  Attempting to sail back to Spain in 1575, he is captured by Algerian pirates, attempted to escape 3 times and was finally ransomed.

Returning to Spain was not the end of his troubles.  He was not initially successful in his writing and was twice jailed for debt and falsifying bookkeeping records.   He finally began to achieve success around 1606 (he was already by then almost 60 years old!).  This success continued to his death on April 23, 1616, which is the same day that William Shakespeare died.

He published in 1606 (in two installments) Don Quixote.  The novel received immediate acclaim and he was recognized as one of the greatest authors of his time.   Previous to that he had also written La Galatea and while writing Don Quixote also wrote Novelas Ejemplares (Exemplary Stories) which was published in 1613.

Cervantes was not only a novelist.  He also in his lifetime publish several collection of poems and a number of plays, most of which are still performed today.

Click here to read the "Windmills" passage from Don Quixote
Click here to read "On the entrance of the Duke of Medina in Cádiz"
a poem by Cervantes

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