You folks did great this time — not a single wrong guess! Indeed, the answer to yesterday’s quiz question is the La Mancha region in Central Spain, north of Toledo and south of Madrid, where Miguel de Cervantes set his great comic novel Don Quixote.
Cervantes did not live in the La Mancha region himself, but he was born nearby in Central Spain and was certainly familiar with the area. A town called Cervantes can also be found in this vicinity, though I have not been able to figure out whether he was named for this town or it was named for him (if anybody knows, please fill us in). Some literary experts believe that he chose the La Mancha region as the home for his hero just so he could name him “Don Quixote de la Mancha” (this was apparently funny, as “mancha” meant “stain”).
As always, the clues in the question had hidden meanings. I used the word “romance” with intention to obfuscate: today a romance novel is a hokey love story, but in Cervantes’ time the word “romance” or “roman” referred more broadly to any novel. Alonso Quijana, the elderly resident of La Mancha who transforms himself into Don Quixote at the beginning of the story, is described as an avid reader of romances, specifically those of the heroic variety.
I also referred to La Mancha as a “dry land” in yesterday’s question. The region is supposedly arid, but I also meant to hint at the famous, chilling explanation for Alonso Quijana’s insanity found in most English translations of Don Quixote: his mind “dried up” after he read too many books.
I described the region as “windy” because it has windmills (though I couldn’t find a windmill to feature in the image above, which shows what appears to be a typical homestead in the area), and I said Don Quixote’s love interest had a “sweet disposition” because this is the literal meaning of the name “Dulcinea”. Finally, the reason this metafictional novel cannot be called “postmodern” is that it was written so long before any literary period that could possibly be called “modern”. But Cervantes’ story is metafictional on multiple levels, allegedly being the found writings of an author based on another found manuscript (written in Arabic) about the true legend of Don Quixote, himself an invented identity created by an obsessive reader. The excellent Broadway musical Man of La Mancha takes the meta-layers even further, depicting Miguel de Cervantes himself in a prison, carrying the unpublished manuscript of the book.
I hope you enjoyed this literary quiz question, and I’ll be posting another one soon! We ought to take a break from the great classics and try something more current next time. Stay tuned. Oh yeah, here’s a link to the spot on Google Maps.