La Mancha, Espana: Where Cervantes' Knight Roamed

Classics Fiction History Love Polls and Questions Postmodernism Romantic

You folks did great this time -- not a single wrong guess! Indeed, the answer to yesterday's quiz question is the La Mancha region in Central Spain, north of Toledo and south of Madrid, where Miguel de Cervantes set his great comic novel Don Quixote.

Cervantes did not live in the La Mancha region himself, but he was born nearby in Central Spain and was certainly familiar with the area. A town called Cervantes can also be found in this vicinity, though I have not been able to figure out whether he was named for this town or it was named for him (if anybody knows, please fill us in). Some literary experts believe that he chose the La Mancha region as the home for his hero just so he could name him "Don Quixote de la Mancha" (this was apparently funny, as "mancha" meant "stain").

As always, the clues in the question had hidden meanings. I used the word "romance" with intention to obfuscate: today a romance novel is a hokey love story, but in Cervantes' time the word "romance" or "roman" referred more broadly to any novel. Alonso Quijana, the elderly resident of La Mancha who transforms himself into Don Quixote at the beginning of the story, is described as an avid reader of romances, specifically those of the heroic variety.

I also referred to La Mancha as a "dry land" in yesterday's question. The region is supposedly arid, but I also meant to hint at the famous, chilling explanation for Alonso Quijana's insanity found in most English translations of Don Quixote: his mind "dried up" after he read too many books.

I described the region as "windy" because it has windmills (though I couldn't find a windmill to feature in the image above, which shows what appears to be a typical homestead in the area), and I said Don Quixote's love interest had a "sweet disposition" because this is the literal meaning of the name "Dulcinea". Finally, the reason this metafictional novel cannot be called "postmodern" is that it was written so long before any literary period that could possibly be called "modern". But Cervantes' story is metafictional on multiple levels, allegedly being the found writings of an author based on another found manuscript (written in Arabic) about the true legend of Don Quixote, himself an invented identity created by an obsessive reader. The excellent Broadway musical Man of La Mancha takes the meta-layers even further, depicting Miguel de Cervantes himself in a prison, carrying the unpublished manuscript of the book.

I hope you enjoyed this literary quiz question, and I'll be posting another one soon! We ought to take a break from the great classics and try something more current next time. Stay tuned. Oh yeah, here's a link to the spot on Google Maps.

This article is part of the series Litkicks Mystery Spot. The next post in the series is A Walking Spell: Litkicks Mystery Spot #6. The previous post in the series is Romance in a Dry Land: Litkicks Mystery Spot #5.
4 Responses to "La Mancha, Espana: Where Cervantes' Knight Roamed"

Wow, that's a great show. It's not my desert island show, that would have to be Gypsy ( I had a dream, Litkicks; I dreamed it for you, Litkicks...) but it's up there. My favorite lyric from La Mancha is in the song “A Little Gossip.”

“And you know what they say, whether the stone hits
the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone... it's going to be bad for the pitcher.”

I wondered if Bob Dylan's parents played the record on the hi-fi, as my parents did. Because, I hear a thematic echo in "One of Us Must Know" (a song I cling to every time I get a little anxious about transgressing gender boundaries in this uber-patriarchal literary culture we are forced to live in and find myself at risk of being thought of as an “uppity-woman” (as Ralph Nader just called Helen Thomas http://www.nader.org/index.php?/archives/2191-Cashiering-Helen-Thomas.html)). Anyway, the lyric I cherish almost as a mantra is:

“But sooner or later one of us must know
That you just did what you're supposed to do.”

That song lets me right off the hook, and I can just be myself.

Oh! My second favorite song from La Mancha is: "I'm Always Thinking of Him." But I've never seen a performance I like of it. They always play it for irony, but I think it's beautiful straight from the heart. Like that gorgeous ballad from Jesus Christ Superstar, "I Don't Know How To Love Him." Next to "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar" that's my favorite Helen Reddy star turn.

by Levi Asher on

Interesting associations from "Man of La Mancha", Frances! I don't get the thematic similarity to the Bob Dylan song -- can you explain what you mean?

As for the show itself -- my parents did listen to it, and took me to see it when I was very young. Absolutely awesome -- had a big impact on me. The movie with Peter O'Toole (linked above) didn't get very good reviews, but I think it succeeds pretty well in capturing the essence of the show.

I meant musically. You can almost sing "A Little Gossip" inside of "One of Us Most Know." You don't hear it?

Thank you for posting the movie clip. No one can pool tears like Ms. Loren; she's a goddess!

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