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You know you’re doing something right when your nation’s language is sometimes referred to by your name. So it was with Miguel de Cervantes, a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright whose Don Quixote is often regarded as the first modern novel and an unquestioned classic of Western literature. Don Quixote’s influence on the Spanish language was so profound that the language is sometimes referred to as la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes"). Fittingly, de Cervantes died on April 23, 1616, the very same day Shakespeare died.

Published in two volumes a decade apart (in 1605 and 1615), Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age in the Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published and is sometimes awarded the honor of “best literary work ever written.”

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