The facts of Cervantes’s life cry out for the epic treatment found in his comic masterpiece. Marlowe gives it to us. The backdrop is Renaissance Europe, a world alive with creative ferment, triple-crossing intrigue, and the passionate quest for novelty. Lofty tragedy and lyric poetry still reign as queens of the literary arts, but young writers heady with ambition seek live action to give substance to their teeming imaginations. It is scoundrel time, and the novel is in gestation. To enter Cervantes’s world we cross a threshold that is Shakespearean and quixotic into a metaphysical wonderland where time expands to become space and vast vaulted distances bend back on themselves, where the threads of fiction and the strands of history shuttle back and forth in the great loom of the artist’s imagination. Marlowe’s Cervantes is a towering creation: flesh and blood and living legend, actor in and creator of the events in his own fantastical life story. He not only survives war, prison, torture, and poverty, he survives death itself, growing inexorably toward the writing of Don Quixote, which would bring both him and his character immortal fame.
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