Waves Cervantes Sharon

  • Issue: February 1997
  • Designer: Y. Granot
  • Stamp size: 25.7 x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 305
  • Sheet of 15 stamps Tabs: 5
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: Offset

Miguel de Cervantes Seavedra was born in 1547 in Alcala de Henares, Spain. Little is known of his life, but in recent years, common opinion is that he was a New Christian" (a descendant of a Jewish family who had converted to Christianity). He knew much suffering in his life. In 1571, at the age of 24, he fought in the famous Lepanto Battle, during which he was wounded in the chest, and his left arm was completely paralyzed. In 1575, on his return to Spain, his ship ran into Turkish vessels and was taken captive. Cervantes was held prisoner in Algeria for five years, until his family finally managed, with great difficulty, to get him released. In 1584, when Cervantes was 37 years old, his first book, La Galatea, was published, however the response was not impressive. To earn his livelihood, Cervantes held many unsatisfying jobs, such as supplying the Spanish Armada with food and collecting taxes for the Granada government. Cervantes was excommunicated by the Church on two occasions, and was imprisoned twice for financial entanglements.

In 1605, the first part of Don Quixote was published, bringing the 60 year old author unprecedented acclaim. His masterpiece was published in numerous editions, followed by several other literary works: Exemplary Novels (1613); Voyage to Parnassus (1614); Comedies and Interludes (1615); and Persiles and Sigismunda (1617). His belated fame, however, barely altered his difficult financial position. Cervantes died in 1616, one year after the second part of Don Quixote was published, and his family was unable to pay for the funeral. Don Quixote is considered not only the first modern novel, but also as one of the finest and influential of modern works. Cervantes' admirers include some of the greatest authors. Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe recognized Quixotic elements in his writing. Stendhal and Flaubert admitted the tremendous influence Don Quixote had on their art. Faulkner acknowledged that he read and reread Don Quixote as often as others do the Bible.

The character of the knight, captivated by the world of the written word until near madness, who perceives books as the origin of truth and as guides to correcting the wrongs of the world, has evoked special meaning among the "People of the Book", the Jewish People, who saw the valiant knight as symbolic of their own fate. It is not by chance that two modern Hebrew works bear the clearly discernible stamp of Don Quixote: Travels of Benjamin The Third by Mendel Mokher Sefarim (Mendeli the Book Seller) and The Bridal Canopy by SY. Agnon. In 1871, Nahman Fraenkel attempted the first Hebrew version of the novel, under the strange title of Avinoam The Galilean, or The Foolish Messiah. H. N. Bialik's abridged translation (1912) was well received by many readers of Hebrew. The first full length version of Don Quixote was translated by Nathan Agmon (Bistrisky) in 1958, and an additional full length translation by Beatriz Zakroiski-Landau and Luis Landau (1941 has recently been published. One of the most significant adaptations of Don Quixote to a different media is undoubtedly the musical play The Man of La Mancha, produced on stage in Israel in 1967 at the Giora Godik theatre.

Don Quixote has ridden his horse Rocinante, with his faithful manservant, Sancho Panza, on top of his donkey, for the past 400 years. They live both inside and outside literature, characters with whom all are familiar. One is a benevolent madman, wonderful, tragic and funny, tirelessly fighting the windmills of an imperfect reality, and the other is a simpleton, adhering to his master as the body does to the soul. As long as people read books and dream, the journey of these two literary heroes will continue.

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450 years since the birth of Cervantes