Canadian makes bid to buy Cervantes' Bones

By Michel D. Cervésasse

If I was Über-rich and insanely famous, I might be just as weird as Michael Jackson was said to be. 

Maybe not in all ways.

But I know for certain that I would try to use my obscene wealth and commanding celebrity to buy the boney remains of a famous person.

The mythical Michael was reported to have offered a London hospital up to a million dollars to buy the skeleton of the sad 19th century British man, Joseph Carey Merrick, whose abnormal body and odd medical condition made him the freak show curiosity known as the Elephant Man.” 

Michael, as the unsubstantiated, persistently denied, implausible, andd - thus widely accepted - News Reports stated, was so touched by the Elephant Man film and play that he wanted to have Merrick, even dead and decayed, close by his side.   Poor Michael. The easy lines were drawn between freak show, celebrity, and more money than mental health, and these were permanently etched in tabloid tablets and minor minds forever.
When the stories first appeared, I, like most people, was fascinated but also repulsed.   I certainly did not want to join the singer in that crazy club of famous people who make the less wealthy, less successful, less creative world feel smug.
However, I am more magnanimous in my thoughts about the imaginary Michael Jackson and his non-existent collection of twisted bones. 
I am making a bid to buy the skeleton of the great 16th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. 

My opening bid will be two (2) million Euros.  I make this offer on the assumption that, given the declining state of European economies, this will be the equivalent of about $6.00 (CDN) when the team of archeologists who located the Don Quixote writer’s body are ready to sell.
I am really not sure where I will put Cervantes.   We have just renovated our basement, and there is not much storage space around our house any more.  But I will deal with that problem when the time comes.
Friendly-looking current home of Cervantes' Bones
Thoughts of gaining personal control over Cervantes’ bones calcified into an obsession a couple of years ago when I learned, on the eve of a trip to Madrid, that permission had been granted for the grand archaeological ripping and digging expedition within the walls of the one-time convent/monastery,  that was Cervantes’ final resting place (but due to be his penultimate one if I have my way).

Cervantes, who had a daughter living in this building at the time of his 1616 death, was evidently interred there for sure, but was later disinterred, moved, returned, and then reinterred in his original hole in the wall, in the floor, or in some other unknown spot.   Some historians hope to reconstruct his face, determine the cause of death, and maybe take him on a book tour.   

They might just be able to do it as his body had specific war wounds and possibly the residue of alcoholism that might help identify the corpse.  The best headline about this drinking angle to the story was Cervantes, Cervezas, Cirrhosis.” 
Convento de las Trinitarias holding Cervantes' corpse for me
 These speculations and the intertwining with the beloved Man of La Mancha grabbed my mind and imagination with vigor.  So enthralled, I made a personal pledge to find and visit the site of Cervantes’ presumed entombment while in Madrid this year.
It now seems odd that I had so much difficulty in locating the place.  It is not far from the Prado, the Atocha Train Station, and other major gathering places.   But my prior googling and e-searching had not turned up any clues, and everyone I stopped on the street looked at me as if I was the naked Elephant Man when I asked about the convent and the search for the corpse of Cervantes.  

 Of course, this is a common reaction to any of my attempts to speak in a foreign language.  
Finally, a young guy in the tourism trailer near the Reina Sofia art museum nodded in response and asked for my map of the City of Madrid. 
“If you are interested in these things, you should go here,” he said, drawing an oval with his pen on my map.  “It is what we call the literary area or the home of the writers.”
Where Don Quixote was first published
 He then touched his pen on a number of points within and along the oval including the monastery and one that he said was firmly recognized as the site where the first copies of Don Quixote had been published.   I stopped paying much attention after that, tried to figure out a route that would take me past the Quixote-publisher, the site of dead Cervantes, and back to the coffee shop in the plaza, and only heard the drone of Latin-like words as he talked of the other distinguished, influential, but not-known-to-me Spanish writers. 

Then he said a name that startled me and broke my trance.
“And as you will see, the monastery is here on Calle Lope de Vega,”  the young pen-pointing tourism information man said in a blasé and insensitive breath.
“Lope de Vega !!” I broke into his recitation. “How could do they do that ?”
I knew of Félix Arturo Lope de Vega y Carpio through my study of Cervantes' life and knew the two men to have been rival contemporaries and anything but friends.   The Quixote creator’s skeleton must be rattling in agony as it faces eternity under the Lope de Vega name.
Lope de Vega was a writer of immense talent and impact: more than worthy of a street name.   Cervantes is, in fact, quoted as lauding him as something just short of a literary god.  But this was evidently sarcasm intended to embarrass, and it is easy to imagine why Cervantes might have resented this particular fellow writer.   
Cervantes’ magnum opus was childbirth stretched over two decades.  Lope de Vega pumped out literary offspring like kittens in the spring.  Lope wrote hundreds and hundreds of plays and sonnet-length poems as well as novels and essays while  Cervantes struggled both creatively and financially for his entire life and was, at times, plainly poor.  Lope was consistently wealthy by comparison. 
Whereas Cervantes suffered debilitating wounds, capture, and brutal imprisonment as reward for his role in one of Spain’s greatest military victories, Lope de Vega slipped back unscathed and renewed after cruising through the Spanish Armada debacle around Britain.   Finally, the lucky and affluent Lope was also very popular with the ladies.  Very, very popular.

And his success in this specific realm even included one whom Cervantes considered as his lady.

Anyone with compassion could not want to see the bones that had touched the heart and soul of Miguel de Cervantes resting a moment longer under the smirking face of Félix Lope de Vega.
Thus my bid to rescue his body and bring it back to Ottawa.  

There is no guarantee that the bones would be any happier under my roof, but if Cervantes’ spirit wants to swathe me in sarcastic exaltations that will be fine. 

I will edit and quote them on the cover of my book and my blog along with excerpts from the tabloid newspaper stories linking me to Michael Jackson and the Elephant man.