cover image Cervantes Street

Cervantes Street

Jaime Manrique. Akashic, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61775-126-4

Novelist, essayist, and poet Manrique (Our Lives Are the Rivers) reimagines the already larger than life true story of Miguel de Cervantes, who flees Madrid after a near-fatal duel, loses use of his left hand in battle, is kidnapped and sold into slavery by pirates, who believe he “will fetch a good ransom because he’s a war hero” and, finally, pens the masterwork Don Quixote. Too good a story to be true? Perhaps, but what Manrique is really interested in is not the sensationalism of Cervantes’s life but his star-crossed relationship with Luis de Lara, who lacks Cervantes’ talent and heart, but gets the money and the girl. Neither man is satisfied with his lot in life, and they compete and support each other in turn, both jealous of what the other man possesses (Manrique assumes both points of view). Manrique adopts a florid, epic style for his tale of 16th-century Spain, one with the quality of a tall tale told by a troubadour rather than written on the page. He ably captures the human qualities of the legendary writer, as well as his swashbuckling, and explores the downside of artistic talent, even offering a theory about the origins of the false Don Quixote. Agent: Thomas Colchie. (Sept.)