books and roses

St George is England’s patron saint – and Catalonia’s. April 23, his day is traditionally when Catalans celebrate all kinds of love, by giving red roses, as St George is supposed to have given one to the princess he saved from the dragon.

Shakespeare and Cervantes also both died 399 years ago today. A Catalan bookseller, Vicente Clavel, noticed their shared anniversary in the 1920s, and turned Sant Jordi into the day of giving books as well as roses. The streets of Catalan towns and cities turn into one big book fair today.

image from Local Barcelona

UNESCO got on the bandwagon in 1995 and today became World Day of Book and Copyright. This year’s theme is getting access to books on mobile devices: In Nigeria for example, there is only 1 library for 1.3m people, but almost 90% of people have a mobile phone. Another priority is access to books in different languages.

So where can you find Shakespeare and Cervantes translated into each others’ languages online? You can read some of the earliest translations of Shakespeare’s sonnets into Spanish, from Matías de Velasco y Rojas onwards,  as “rescued” by Ángel-Luis Pujante, and search the database of the Shakespeare in Spain project for translations of his plays and more.

There are several translations of Cervantes’ Don Quixote into English to choose from. The earliest, The delightfull history of the wittie knight, Don Quiskote by Thomas Shelton, appeared in 1611, before Cervantes’ own second edition.

And the most acclaimed recent translation is Edith Grossmann’s. She took the bold decision to use contemporary language and is in love with her text: “If my translation works at all, the reader should keep turning the pages, smiling a good deal, periodically bursting into laughter, and impatiently waiting for the next synonym (Cervantes delighted in accumulating synonyms, especially descriptive ones, within the same phrase), the next mind-bending coincidence, the next variation on the structure of Don Quixote’s adventures, the next incomparable conversations between the knight and the squire.” As Ilan Stevens says:

“Grossman makes Cervantes look good. What else can an author wish for from a translator?”

Translator, editor, writer, reader

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