Originally posted on Theory Of Irony.


The real life exploits of famed author Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616) outdid any character of fiction.  Though he was surely born near Madrid, about his youth we know only murky rumors of a duel which forced him to flee the country.  Cervantes turned up in Italy to join a Christian naval alliance against the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto (1571), where the Turks sort of bought the farm as a maritime threat to Europe.  He served with uncommon valor in battle, took a series of gunshot wounds that nearly killed him, confined him to the hospital for months and permanently crippled his left hand.  The author survived though and remained a soldier in a Spanish legion, fighting across the Eastern Mediterranean to Northern Africa.

When sailing home he was captured by pirates, imprisoned and sold into slavery in Algeria for several years.  Miguel de Cervantes made several daring escape attempts – all unsuccessful – and in 1580 he was ransomed by his family and repatriated to Spain.  There, Cervantes failed miserably as a playwright, fathered a daughter out-of-wedlock and later married a woman with whom he had a tempestuous relationship.  For many years, he worked as a government tax collector and purchasing agent for the soon-to-be-doomed “Invincible Armada,” but, could never balance his ledgers.  So, the author was again thrown into a dungeon (by his own King), twice, where he lurked among a rogue’s gallery ranging from jaywalkers to murderers.  And there, he began to scratch out a book – some would say the most insightful ever written (as noted before, the worst book ever, Mein Kampf, was also curiously penned from behind bars).

That book, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, remembered simply as Don Quixote, broke out of prison and straight onto the bestseller list in 1605.  As if to rub salt in a wound, it led to…

via Best Book Ever: Don Quixote | Theory Of Irony.