Andrés de Urdaneta is a name that few other than specialist historians will immediately recognise. He was one of the last of the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century explorers and navigators from the Iberian peninsula whose voyages resulted in redrawing the globe in more or less the form we know it today. Christopher Columbus has a country and several cities named after him; Ferdinand Magellan has the famous straits. But Urdaneta has no such monuments.

Perhaps this is because Urdaneta didn’t discover how to get anywhere, but rather less glamorously but no less importantly discovered how to get back. Until 1565, no fleet had succeeded in sailing east from Asia back across the Pacific to the Americas. It was Urdaneta, a survivor of earlier expeditions, who first worked out the right winds and currents across the uncharted waters of this vast ocean. His discovery was called the tornaviaje, or ‘return trip’.

From the preface:

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, we asked contemporary poets to interpret the themes of Cervantes’s classic Don Quixote for Hong Kong and East Asia, in particular the tension between pragmatism and vision, the “real world” and dreams or, in the words of scholar Ilan Stavans, “between hope and fatalism, … idealism and materialism”, and to explore what this says about the nature of humanity and success.

We hope we have succeeded in having exposed a new generation of poets to a work that many have called the first “modern” novel, and that they and their readers find, in the word of Harold Bloom,

 

There are parts of yourself you will not know fully until you know, as well as you can, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.