Arts / Don Quixote takes centre stage in $1500 reading prize

A BUSY Canberra mother of four was announced, this morning, the winner of the unique project “Money to Read” at the National Library of Australia.

Moira Christie prepares for the task ahead

Moira Christie prepares for the task ahead

Moira Christie wins $1500 for the privilege of reading (silently) Miguel Cervantes’ literary classic “Don Quixote” in its English translation at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. In just over three to four weeks from October 24, Christie will be there absorbing words in the public eye.

The Ambassador of Spain, Manuel Cacho, and the director-general of the Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, joined Ciro Marquez from the edgy Spanish art group “mmmm” to make the announcement this morning, inviting Ms Christie to the podium to give us an animated reading of the prologue to part one of “Don Quixote”.

Chosen by Embassy staff from 158 people who put their hands up for the exercise, Christie admitted that her knowledge of the great literary work was very sketchy, based on a vague idea of “some old dude who tilted it windmills because he wasn’t quite right in the mind”. As well, her mother sometimes played  “To dream the Impossible Dream” at home on the piano, but she could never quite understand what it was all about.

She wouldn’t be alone in that. As Sr. Cacho explained, Cervantes, who this year shares a 400th death anniversary with Shakespeare, was a literary trailblazer as a poet, playwright and arguably the first modern novelist in the world, yet many people outside Spain have no idea what his greatest book is really like, though they might think they know the quixotic Don and his side-kick Sancho Panza.

Christie, he predicts is about to discover that the great writer was a master of humour and parody. “Cervantes is very modern”, he added.

Ms Schwirtlich told those present that when approached at the Embassy about the project, she was initially surprised, but quickly realised that it was a thought-provoking way of drawing attention to the importance of reading. “We just couldn’t resist it,” she said.

As for the vivacious Christie, who was visibly enjoying the media engagement, with half the winning amount in her pocket and the other half waiting for her when she completes the task, she was inclined to regard the whole exercise as a blissful alternative to home duties – but don’t tell the kids. Her partner is getting used to the idea and now prefers to be known at home as “John Quixote”.

At the end of each hard day at the library, she’ll be tweeting and uploading videos of anything that comes into her mind, and if you think of the chivalrous Don’s adventures with pirates, gypsies, giants and windmills, the sky’s the limit.

It’s bound to be a change from the autobiography Christie recently finished about lead guitarist with Guns N’ Roses, Slash, but secretly she’s been dying to read “Don Quixote” for years – she just never dreamt she’d be paid to do it.

And how did she find out about it? In the pages of “CityNews”—where else?

 

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