Happy Birthday, Will!
Today, April 23rd, is William Shakespeare’s birthday (as best we can determine from the less-than-perfect records of the 16th Century, he was born this day in 1564). It’s also the day Shakespeare died, 52 years later in 1616.
My “Today In Literature” email (you should check it out: http://www.todayinliterature.com/AboutTinL.asp) told me that today is also the day Miguel de Cervantes died — ya know, the author of Don Quixote. (If you object that Pierre Menard is the actual author of Don Quixote, then you’re both kidding and know the Borges story, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote“).
Michelangelo died in 1564, the same year that Shakespeare was born (transmigration of souls, anyone?). And today’s last factoid, Galileo (also born in 1564) died in 1642, the year Isaac Newton was born.
If you’ve never read Borges lovely story, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” it’s worth an hour of your time. The trick of the story is that Pierre Menard, who lives in the 20th Century, decides to so steep himself in Cervantes’ time, 16th Century Spain,
and Cervantes’ language, 16th Century Spanish, that he would be capable of writing Don Quixote. And then finds himself actually writing Don Quixote. (Yes, the story’s a bit fanciful.) So, in that sense, Pierre Menard is the actual author of Don Quixote. The story insists that he’s not plagiarizing — he’s not copying Don Quixote; he’s writing it.