Ask Cervantes

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Dear Cervantes,
I just have to say you are a hero of mine, having written about he who so bravely battled the mighty windmills. I am curious, what are your thoughts now on alternative energy sources, especially regarding wind power and windmills?

Thank you,

A concerned Avis

Dear A concerned Avis,

You’ll remember him
You can’t not
That wise man
Apolonio Tianeo
Who, for all you know,
With heaven’s favor
Or a learned science
With work and time
Learned to understand birds’
Song to such an extreme
That hearing them he said,
“That’s what they say.”
And it’s true
Canary sings
Goldfinch trills
Turtle dove groans
Crow caws,
From the rogue sparrow
To the royal eagle
From their songs he understood
Their hidden secrets“

Si de bien tendrás memoria,
porque no es posible menos,
de aquel sabio cuyo nombre
fue Apolonio Tianeo,
el cual, según que lo sabes,
o fuese favor del cielo,
o fuese ciencia adquirida
con el trabajo y el tiempo,
supo entender de las aves
el canto tan por estremo,
que en oyéndolas decía:
“Esto dicen”. Y esto es cierto.
Ora cantase el canario,
ora trinase el jilguero,
ora gimiese la tórtola,
ora graznasen los cuervos,
desde el pardal malicioso 890
hasta el águila de imperio,
de sus cantos entendía
los escondidos secretos

La gran sultana doña Catalina de Oviedo, from Las Comedias

“Sure, what am I am complaining about? Unlucky me! It’s the truth that when misfortunes are brought by the currents of the stars, coming from on high to down low, letting themselves go with fury and violence, there is no force on earth that can stop them, nor human industry that can prevent them.”

“Mas, ¿de qué me quejo?, ¡desventurado de mí!, pues es cosa cierta que cuando traen las desgracias la corriente de las estrellas, como vienen de alto a bajo, despeñándose con furor y con violencia, no hay fuerza en la tierra que las detenga, ni industria humana que prevenirlas pueda” El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha

“You see that sun shines on us? Yeah, for a sign of what I can do, you want me to take away its rays and shadow us in clouds, well ask me, and I’ll make this clarity into the darkest night, or if you want to see the ground shake, the winds battled, the sea altered, the mountains found, the beasts to bellow, or other terrifying signs of the confusion of the first chaos, ask me it, and you will be satisfied and I accredited.”

“¿Ves este sol que nos alumbra? Pues si, para señal de lo que puedo, quieres que le quite los rayos y le asombre con nubes, pídemelo, que haré que a esta claridad suceda en un punto escura noche; o ya si quisieres ver temblar la tierra, pelear los vientos, alterarse el mar, encontrarse los montes, bramar las fieras, o otras espantosas señales que nos representen la confusión del caos primero, pídelo, que tú quedarás satisfecho y yo acreditada.” Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda

“More in that short time, when he thought that the ship of his good fortune had caught a prosperous wind toward his desired port, a contrary one lifted in its sea a mighty storm, that a thousand times he dreaded would suck him into the depths.”

“Mas en aquel breve tiempo, donde él pensaba que la nave de su buena fortuna corría con próspero viento hacia el deseado puerto, la contraria suerte levantó en su mar tal tormenta, que mil veces temió anegarle.” “Novela de la española inglesa,” Novelas Ejemplares

*Translation above, original marked as quote below. Translations are all mine. I would love comments on errors/mistranslations or bettering them!

Ask Cervantes: New Venture

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Dear Cervantes,

I’ve just launched a new venture, what’s your prognosis?

Hoping for the Best

Dear Hoping for the Best,

“I expected nothing less than this from your great magnificence, dear sir,” Don Quijote responded, “and for this, I’m letting you know that I’ve asked, and you’ve answered, and tomorrow I’ll be named a great knight, and tonight I’m gonna hang out in the chapel and get ready and tomorrow, like I said, all that I want will happen, so it can be, as it should, that I go to the four corners of the world searching adventures, helping the helpless, as should be the case for wandering knights—as I am—to all of whom are inclined heroic deeds.”*

Cervantes, Don Quijote, chapter 3

*My loosy goosy translation, not worthy of literary scrutiny surely, nor much else.


Ask Cervantes: How can I accept change?

Dear Cervantes,

I went to visit my niece at the rodeo today, and I was overcome by the fact that she has become a tremendous person in her own right, and that the notions of her I had in my head were completely wrong, and by that notion as well, that I am a terrible uncle. What can I do to help myself understand that people change? And to accept that I might have missed it completely?

Sincerely, They All Are Passing Me By

Ask Cervantes: Thinking that this life and its things will never change and last forever is shithouse thinking; get it together and realize that it’s all the other way round, I say: spring follows summer, summer that weird in-between season, that one the fall, fall the winter, that’s how time’s wheel keeps on rolling; only humans get to the end a long ways before time except in the other life, the one that stretches on forever.” Thus spake Cide Hamete, Moorish philospher, because you know, it doesn’t take a true believer to understand the fragility and shakiness of life, and how long that next one’s gonna stretch out; but what I’m really talking about here, if you want to get serious, is how fast Sancho’s governorship finished, was eaten, the bones were broke, and it disappeared into the smoke and shadow.

Note on Ask Cervantes: The above  dd not a very literal, nor probably a very literary translation. I might have used either the recent Grossman translation or the older standard one I got off of iBooks for free, but I found them both lacking in ways. This is my interpretation of the following passage, with so many warts I’m sure I can’t smell them all:

“Pensar que en esta vida las cosas della han de durar siempre en un estado es pensar en lo escusado; antes parece que ella anda todo en redondo, digo, a la redonda: la primavera sigue al verano, el verano al estío, el estío al otoño, y el otoño al invierno, y el invierno a la primavera, y así torna a andarse el tiempo con esta rueda continua; sola la vida humana corre a su fin ligera más que el tiempo, sin esperar renovarse si no es en la otra, que no tiene términos que la limiten”. Esto dice Cide Hamete, filósofo mahomético; porque esto de entender la ligereza e instabilidad de la vida presente, y de la duración de la eterna que se espera, muchos sin lumbre de fe, sino con la luz natural, lo han entendido; pero aquí, nuestro autor lo dice por la presteza con que se acabó, se consumió, se deshizo, se fue como en sombra y humo el gobierno de Sancho.” (Don Quixote, part 2, chapter 53)

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Ask Cervantes

Tonight’s question:

What should I do when life gets me down?

“… he who’s down one day can be up the next, unless he really wants to stay in bed, that is…”

― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote


Via goodreads (no attribution but seems to be a common quote)

About Ask Cervantes: I don’t claim to be an expert, but I admire Cervantes above all authors. Fuck Hemingway’s bravado, Cervantes was the shit. He lost an arm in the most biggest battle of his age, Lepanto. He spent time in a Moorish prison and debtor’s prison. He might have been part Jewish (not long after the Jews had been expelled from Spain), and even if not he was definitely an outsider. Likely little of his work would have ever seen the light of day if it weren’t for wealthy benefactors. And he gave the world so much: don Quixote and Sancho Panza, but also Dulcinea and Rocinantes, Ciprion and Berganza, so much more. He didn’t just invent stories; he built modern consciousness. My friend, if you want to really write look at Cervantes. So tonight I’m launching the Cervantes advice column: Ask Cervantes. If you have a question for Cervantes, let me know!