Tag Archives: Don Quixote

#TTWIBRAT Mini-Challenge + GIVEAWAY : Favorite Characters in Cover Art

25 Oct
Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

I’m very happy to be hosting a mini-challenge for our Travel the World in Books Readathon. It’s about one of my very favorite things about reading–great characters! When a truly memorable character transports me to a different place and time, it’s even better, and speaks to my own longings to travel around the world and travel in time too.  A beautiful or striking book cover featuring the outstanding character I will meet in the story is sure to draw me in, whether the book is a favorite classic in a new edition or something totally new–a favorite in the making.

I’m sure you’ve had that experience too.  I like many kinds of covers featuring characters: original illustrations made just for the book cover; paintings or other art that suggests the character and gives me some notion of time, place, and personality (Penguin is a fan of this approach); or even photographs, modern or period photos of people who then become my mental image of the character as I read.


This challenge is meant to be easy, fun, and flexible. The goal is for us to share some favorite characters from around the world, especially those which have been depicted in memorable cover art. Your task is to select one or more book covers featuring any one of your favorite characters (they don’t have to be on my 100 list, of course), and post the result in the format of your choice.  Some details:

  1. You can share just ONE book cover that you especially like–that would be great.  Or, if you wish, create a COMPOSITE image, a COLLAGE, or GALLERY with several covers.
  2. Post your image on the social media of your choice. You can Tweet or Instagram it. You can post it in your blog. Whichever way you choose, be sure to include the hashtag #TTWIBRAT in your posting.
  3. Share the link with me by leaving a comment to this mini-challenge post.  Be sure that you use the specific link that will take me right to your post, tweet, or instagram page containing your submission.  I will be tweet-sharing your submissions @Fictional100, and I will feature as many as I can in a follow-up post at the end of the Readathon.
  4. This mini-challenge and giveaway will run throughout the second week of the readathon, from October 25 to 31.


I am giving away a copy of one of the following books, featuring Fictional 100 characters on their gorgeous covers, to ONE lucky winner.  These are all chunksters, in acclaimed translations, and well worth adding to your personal library and your lifetime reading (or re-reading) plan.  Follow the links to Goodreads for more details about each one.

The GIVEAWAY is open to those who participate in the mini-challenge and share a fabulous character cover or covers! Because the prize is a print book, which I will ship to your doorstep, this print-book giveaway is open in the US/Canada only. International readers who enter will receive a Kindle version of one of these books if they win.

The winner will be selected by random drawing from those who ENTER using the link below. I will notify the winner by email and arrange to send your prize.


I can’t wait to see and share your cover selections for favorite characters. If you are participating in the #TTWIBRAT Instagram Challenge, today’s theme is Favorite World Lit Characters, so feel free to share the same photo here if it is a book cover. Thank you for participating, and enjoy the rest of the Travel the World in Books Readathon!

And There’s More!

Also be sure to check out the main Travel the World in Books Readathon 2015 Giveaways Page and enter to win a book from among the 18 books generously offered there! See more details at Mom’s Small Victories.

Giveaways page button

Lazarillo de Tormes: A Precursor of Don Quixote

14 Mar


The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (trans. by W. S. Merwin; intro. by Juan Goytisolo). New York: New York Review of Books, 2005.

In the Spanish novella The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, Lazaro tells the story of his life, or rather unwinds the string of “fortunes and adversities” he experienced in the service of a series of difficult masters. He is the picaro,  and the genre which his story inaugurated is the picaresque.  Authorship is unknown but the book was published in Spain and the Netherlands in 1554. Satirizing certain church figures and their abuses, it was banned and listed by the Inquisition.  Here is one of its early title pages, from Burgos. 


Lazaro’s story runs only 118 pages in poet W. S. Merwin’s adept 1962 translation; in one or two delectable gulps, one can easily digest a work that is rewarding in itself and also one of the major precursors of Don QuixoteLazaro’s parents were often in trouble themselves, so the boy had to leave his mother’s home early and manage as best he could as the servant of a blind beggar.  This man beat him and taught him how to survive in a world that only seemed to offer similar treatment whatever the station of those doling it out. After barely escaping this first master with his life, he serves, in turn, a priest, a squire, a friar, a seller of indulgences (also known as a pardoner), a chaplain, and a constable.  His third master, the squire, is the kindest and also the most important in terms of the story’s legacy for literature. 

The squire is a penniless and starving nobleman and, as his servant, Lazaro covers for his master’s down-at-heels condition and begs door-to-door to obtain food for them both.  In their conversations, we have the germ of Don Quixote and Sancho, the impractical hidalgo and his more sensible companion.

“Lazaro, it’s late, … Let’s get along as best we can, and tomorrow, once the daylight is here, God will be good to us. I’m all by myself so I hadn’t got anything laid in; I’ve been eating out for the last three days. But now we’ll have to make other arrangements.”

“Oh, as for me, sir,” I said, “set your mind at rest. I’m capable of going without food for a night, or even longer if necessary.”

“You’ll live longer and keep your health better,” he answered. “Because as we were saying, there’s nothing in the world like eating little to make you live long.”

“If that’s the way of it,” I said to myself, “I’ll live forever, because I’ve kept that rule religiously, and for that matter I expect I’ll have the bad luck to keep it for the rest of my life.” (The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, pp. 62-63)

But whereas Lazaro moves on alone, to suffer more mishaps with new employers, Cervantes makes his pair of Don Quixote and Sancho undergo most adventures as a unit, confronting the villains and tricksters they meet on the road as a team.



Don Quixote is not a picaresque novel, nor is its hero a picaro, any more than it is a straightforward chivalric romance, the other genre that Alonso Quexana addled his brains with and Cervantes used, parodied, and transformed.  Cervantes’ novel expands and defies genre; it is too self-conscious for romance and too subtle in conception for picaresque.  Lazarillo de Tormes is specifically mentioned in chapter XXII of the First Part of Don Quixote, by Gines  de Pasamonte, one of the chain gang of galley slaves that Don Quixote has freed. Gines announces that he is writing The Life of Gines de Pasamonte, and brags that, “It is so good, that it’s too bad for Lazarillo de Tormes and all other books of that genre that have been or will be written” (Don Quixote, trans. Edith Grossman, p. 169).

If the list of Lazaro’s masters reminds you of Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims, this is no accident, since Lazarillo de Tormes represents a link between medieval tales and the novels which were soon to follow, beginning with Don Quixote. As Juan Goytisolo points out in his Introduction to Lazarillo, Lazaro learns and changes over the course of his adventures, unlike the protagonists of medieval tales who tended to illustrate fixed traits (e.g., patient Griselda).

Don Quixote is often cited, quite rightly, as an important influence on Mark Twain, but Twain’s greatest work also bears comparison with Lazarillo. Huckleberry Finn tells his story in the first person, as Lazaro does, and Huck is closer to the hungry, penniless boy Lazaro than to the courtly, lovestruck Don.  However, when Huck joins forces with Jim, their partnership both pays tribute to Cervantes’ immortal duo and gives new dimension to the pairing of unfortunate heroes.

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