Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Spain's greatest literary figure, was born in Alcala de Henares, a small town near Madrid, on October 9, 1547. He served as a soldier in the Spanish army, fighting in the Battle of Lepanto, where he received serious wounds and lost the use of his left hand. He was captured by Barbary pirates on a return journey to Spain from Italy in 1575 and spent five years imprisoned in Algiers. After his release, he worked as a government official and wrote plays, poetry, and fiction. The first part of "Don Quixote of La Mancha" was published in 1605, to immediate success, and the second part in 1615. He died in Madrid on April 23, 1616.
Ilan Stavans is the publisher of Restless Books and Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His books include, most recently, "Reclaiming Travel" (Duke, co-written with Joshua Ellison) and "Quixote: The Novel and the World" (Norton).
British translator John Ormsby (1829-1895) was most famous for his 1885 translation of Miguel de Cervantes "Don Quixote de la Mancha," perhaps the most thorough and accurate English translation of the novel up to that time. His translation went through more editions than any other nineteenth-century version of the novel and was the first English version of the book to appear complete on the Internet. In his introduction, Ormsby scrutinized every previous major English version of "Don Quixote" and offered a controversial analysis of the work, critiquing Cervantes writing style and refuting the commonly held view that Don Quixote is an innately noble character."