Madrid lies 40 degrees and 30 minutes north of the equator, which in Japan is around about Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. It is also located in highlands at a relatively high altitude of 650 m, it has large temperature differences, and the humidity is low, so even right now in the middle of summer, the weather is pleasant in the mornings and evenings, although it sometimes goes over 50 degrees in the middle of the day, and when you go out, you just have to look for shady or airconditioned places as you walk. It’s also the middle of the vacation season, so there’s little traffic in the city, which means it’s a time when a lot of public works are scheduled, but the noise and the dust accentuate the heat all the more.
Madrid's Plaza de España (Spain Square) which I wrote about in my article "Liria Palace" published on June 3, is currently undergoing a complete renovation, like everywhere else. Bearing the name of the country, Spain Square has at its heart a monument to Don Quixote, that literary work so representative of Spain; bronze statues of its main character, Don Quixote, and his offsider, Sancho Panza; as well as a stone statue of the author, Cervantes. If I exaggerate a little, it is an absolutely must-visit photo spot for tourists comparable to the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, or perhaps the more familiar “Glico running man” on Dotonbori (Osaka).
This is the Cervantes monument, in the center of Spain Square, before the renovations.
We are finally starting to see sightseers from other parts of Spain and the world coming to the area around Spain Square more often, but as you can see in Photo 2, renovations are still under way and these statues are covered in green protective sheeting, so they can only imagine which one is which from the silhouette. But if you have taken the trouble to come and visit Don Quixote and want to bring home some sort of memories, how about going down below the square? Don Quixote completely covers the walls of the line 3 platforms at Madrid Metro’s Plaza de España station, which extends alongside the underground carpark.
Don Quixote is a timeless masterpiece, ranking second in the world to the Bible for number of copies printed. Part 1 is 52 chapters long and was published in 1605, while Part 2 has 74 chapters and was published 10 years afterward in 1615. It instantly became a bestseller, and they say 500 million copies have been sold so far.
This Don Quixote Metro project is huge. The entire text of this great work has been printed onto plastic sheets and then stuck onto the walls of the connecting passageways to the inbound and outbound platforms of line 3. Each of the 189 sheets is 1 m x 2 m with the 378,119 words in Part 1 and Part 2 covering a total of 378 square meters. If you do the calculation, you probably get a little over 2,000 words per sheet (32 A4 pages).
There is probably a copy of Don Quixote on the bookshelf of every Spanish home, but I would think that very few people have actually read it from cover to cover. But everyone in Spain knows and can probably recite by heart the opening sentence, as in Japan literature we have “The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country” (Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country) and “To while away the idle hours, seated the livelong day before the ink slab...” (Yoshida Kenko's Tsurezuregusa). Photo 3 shows the opening passage.
“En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo ・・・”
“Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago...”
Photos 4 and 5 show the line 3 outbound platform from the inbound platform. No one has stopped and stood to read the text, as though it were too ordinary or obvious. Photo 6 shows they have used the wall space up to the doors to a no-entry area.
On Spain’s recommendation, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated April 23 of every year as World Book Day (or World Book and Copyright Day) in November 1995. Apparently, this date was selected because England’s Shakespeare, one of the world's two greatest writers, died on April 23, 1616 (Julian calendar, or Old Style calendar), and Cervantes too died on April 23, 1616 (Gregorian calendar, or New Style calendar). So, they have been holding an event in Spain every year since 1996 where people recite Don Quixote non-stop in relay on this day.
The day is celebrated by ordinary men, women, and children, not just members of the royal family, as well as ministers, cultural figures, and notable people from various walks of life joining together to read this great work. In the beginning, the participants gathered at a venue and took turns to read, but the spread of the internet has meant people can participate anywhere in the world, and the time required for the recitation has decreased quite a bit. You can see this year’s event, the 25th such recitation, as it was streamed, here. It takes about 15 hours to read the whole of Don Quixote.
XXV Lectura virtual del Quijote - Círculo de Bellas Artes (circulobellasartes.com)
Dividing the 378,115 words by 15 hours gives you 25,207 words per hour, or 420 words per minute.
The first train on line 3 of the Metro departs at 6:05 in the morning and the last train is at 2:00 the next morning, which means it operates for a little over 20 hours, so by my calculations, you can read the whole book if you spend a day on the Metro line 3 platform at Plaza de España station.
But wouldn’t seeing a bronze statue of the novel’s protagonist and then deciding you’d like to read the novel from which the protagonist comes be a bit like seeing the bronze statue on the beach at Atami of the domestic violence scene where Kanichi kicks Omiya-san with his clog, and then being inspired to read Konjiki Yasha (The Golden Demon)? I am from Atami, so I have seen the Omiya no Matsu (Omiya Pine Tree) and the commemorative statue, but it didn’t make me feel like reading the novel. Yet, I have read Don Quixote, and still have a read of it occasionally. Photo 7 shows the Omiya Pine Tree and the Kanichi and Omiya Statue on the beach at Atami (from the Atami City Tourism Association website).
Well, the topic has turned to Atami, in Shizuoka, my hometown. Sorry for the abrupt change, but I would like to take this opportunity to offer a prayer for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives in the mudslide disaster that occurred in Atami’s Izusan district on July 3, as well as for speedy return to normal life for everyone affected and those who suffered damage. I would also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the people who even now are still engaged in the search and recovery operations under such difficult conditions.
Atami Municipal Atami Junior High School, my alma mater, was one of the emergency-shelter sites immediately after the disaster. There is a ramen shop in Atami that I used to go to a lot roughly half a century ago and where I still drop in when I go back home, but the long-established noodle factory that supplies the noodles to that ramen shop was directly hit by a mudslide and was forced to close. Here is video of the mudslide hitting, taken by a member of the family from the noodle factory at their home.
20210703_熱海土石流災害_コマツ屋製麺所付近 - YouTube
From far-off Spain, I look forward to the noodles making a comeback.