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Tilting at windmills

'El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha', Miguel de Cervantes' classic 17th century novel, is the pre-eminent work in the history of Spanish literature. The book tells the story of Don Quixote, an errant knight who embarks upon a series of humourous adventures with his page Sancho Panza.

The pair begin their journey in La Mancha, an arid region in Spain's central plateau. Don Quixote's madness makes him see things that don't exist; he confuses herds of sheep with enemy armies, windmills with giants, and prisoners with noble knights. It is Sancho Panza, whose feet are firmly rooted on the ground, who has to extricate Don Quixote from the scrapes he often gets into. To mark the four hundredth anniversary of the book's publication, Alfredo Caliz set out to retrace their steps. The first part of the novel takes place in Argamasilla de Alba, Quixote's birthplace; El Toboso, where his beloved Dulcinea lived; Puerto Lapice, where he became a knight; the fields of Montiel and the hills of Sierra Morena. In part two, they travel north towards the Alto Tajo, cross Aragon and reach the city of Barcelona, where Quixote fights against the Knight of the Sad Countenance.

On his own epic journey around La Mancha, Caliz found several instances of life imitating art. The people he met often seemed to have emerged from the pages of the novel. And for many Manchegos, there was no question that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were fictional characters: they were for real.
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