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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April 2005, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Free Quixotes big pull in Caracas
Hugo Chavez
Mr Chavez has said all Venezuelans should be inspired by the book
People in the Venezuelan capital Caracas have been queuing around the block to collect free copies of the Spanish masterpiece Don Quixote.

The Venezuelan government is handing out a million copies to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Populist President Hugo Chavez has urged Venezuelans to draw inspiration from the figure of Don Quixote.

The tale tells the story of a would-be knight who rides around on an old nag trying to set the world to rights.

Crusade

The event - taking place in 24 cities across the country - is being called Operation Dulcinea, after Don Quixote's female vision of perfection.

There were revolutionary songs and public readings in Bolivar Square, Caracas, as people waited for hours to collect their copies of the book.

We're still oppressed by giants
Francisco Sesto, Venezuelan minister of culture

Some 350,000 copies of the epic text of Miguel de Cervantes will be handed out in squares nationwide while the rest of the million texts will be distributed in schools and public libraries.

"We're still oppressed by giants", the Venezuelan Minister of Culture, Francisco Sesto, told the BBC, "so we want the Venezuelan people to get to know better Don Quixote, who we see as a symbol of the struggle for justice and the righting of wrongs."

Our correspondent says that some critics have seen a less flattering parallel between the crusade of President Hugo Chavez for a better world, and Cervantes' deluded fictional hero who cannot tell the difference between giants and windmills.

Windmills in Campo de Criptana in the La Mancha region of Spain
Chasing at windmills? The fictional hero mistakes them for giants

Don Quixote of La Mancha is the second most published book in the world, after the Bible.

It tells of the adventures of a mad knight and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza, with the original running to 1,000 pages in archaic Spanish.

Don Quixote recently beat the likes of Shakespeare and Tolstoy to be named the best work of fiction in a survey of leading writers from across the world.

Spain has been leading the celebrations of its most famous book, with new editions printed along with readings and seminars.



SEE ALSO
Venezuela celebrates Quixote book
18 Apr 05 |  Entertainment
Don Quixote: A surreal success
10 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Spain marks Quixote anniversary
16 Jan 05 |  Europe
Depp keen to revive Quixote movie
08 Jul 03 |  Entertainment
Don Quixote gets authors' votes
07 May 02 |  Entertainment

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