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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Nothing is what it seems

Don Quixote was the first European character who questioned his own motives, says Miranda France

Honouring national heroes may not come easily to the British, but the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death on 23rd April is surely one day when we can kick up our heels and sing “Hey Nonny” without shame. There is no other Briton of whom we can feel so straightforwardly proud. Whatever doubts hang over the details of Shakespeare’s life, few question the genius of the work nor the way it has enriched our language and culture. (See “The way we were” on p88.)

For Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who died on 22nd April 1616, the Spanish celebration will be more muted. Last year, forensic scientists proved that bone fragments buried at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid belonged to Cervantes, a discovery that might have given a fillip to this year’s commemoration. But the 2016 programme has come together late and grudgingly. Arguably, it’s easier to celebrate plays, which are performed in public, than novels, which are enjoyed alone. Besides, Spain has already had to make merry over Cervantes twice in just over a decade. In 2005, the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first part of Don Quixote was marked by a 48-hour reading. Celebrities, children and politicians took turns to read, with fishermen joining in from their boats, and prisoners from their cells. Soldiers were given free copies to take on tours of duty, and were perhaps not grateful for the extra luggage (my copy weighs half a kilo). Last year, the 1615 publication of the novel’s second part was fêted with exhibitions, lectures, theatre performances and a new version in modern Spanish by poet Andrés Trapiello. His “dumbed-down” version inevitably drew criticism, but it went to number nine in the Spanish bestseller chart—just below Fifty Shades of Grey.

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In Prospect’s April issue: Sam Tanenhaus profiles Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican Party Presidential nomination and asks if Trump makes it to the Oval Office, what would he do? Stephen Glover, examines what is happening at the Guardian as the newspaper looks to cut costs. Ferdinand Mount says Tony Blair transformed Britain but he should have cared more about the Labour Party. Also in this issue: Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI5, says that Brexit would not damage the UK’s security and Christopher de Bellaigue questions whether France’s clampdown on radicals is having the right effect. Plus Miranda France looks at the legacy of Don Quixote and the Duel asks: “Should the Church of England be disestablished”?