The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

Cervantes' 400th

Noel Grima Sunday, 28 November 2021, 12:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

‘Zwieg Qarrieqi’. Author: Miguel de Cervantes. Translated by Fiona Sciberras. Publisher: Spanish Embassy in Malta / 2016. Pages: 60pp

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 2016, the Spanish Embassy in Malta, at that time led by Ambassador Jose' Pons, commissioned Fiona Sciberras to translate one of Cervantes' short stories to Maltese.

Before that, the poet Pawlu Montebello had translated into Maltese Don Quijote de La Mancha. This had a historical development in the cultural relations between Spain and Malta.

Although Cervantes never came to Malta, there is much in common between him and our island. Five years after the Great Siege of Malta he fought and was wounded in the battle of Lepanto along with many knights and soldiers from the Order of Malta.

Then he was captured and spent many years imprisoned in Oran in Algeria.

The Spanish Embassy in Malta chose Cervantes' Novelas Ejemplares and from this collection of short stories chose El casamiento enganoso (The false marriage) to be translated by Sciberras. Sciberras is a translator at the European Parliament and her knowledge and experience can be seen from the pains she took to translate not just the words but also the wider significance of Cervantes' original.

Two old friends happen to meet each other outside a hospital in the city of Valladolid. One of them is very weak and uses his sword as a walking stick. His friend is very alarmed to see him in this state and the other one proceeds to tell him his story and why he has ended in such a bad way.

One day he met a woman who looked like being rich and cultured. However, her face was covered up and he could not see her face. At long last he managed to get her to reveal her face and they started to speak about themselves. He found out that if they pooled together what they possessed they could buy a small house and live together.

In just three days they got married. The first days were pure bliss. But then one day heavy banging on the door woke them up and a richly dressed woman and a man walked in. It turned out this woman was the real owner of the house and the woman, the man had married in just three days, was her servant who, while her mistress was away had acted as if she was the mistress of the house.

The two newlyweds had to move out and the crafty woman soon abandoned her husband taking with her all his worldly possessions and leaving him so weak he ended up in hospital.

Towards the end Cervantes uses a well-known ruse - he begins another story, which leads to the next short story. 

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