Crisis of European culture is a very relevant subject to everyone, who feels so in one way or another. The fact, that after certain time the beau monde of Europe was ruled by people, who culturally and spiritually never belonged to it, is a phenomenon that must provide lots of food for thought for Muslims from those territories. How did it happen, that the group lesser by number, that was being oppressed and persecuted for centuries in every way, managed to crack cultural codes of the old Europe?

It is obvious, that this was served by wide range of political, economic and social changes, but let us take, for example, literary aspect of it. For a very long time, there has been a tradition, that connected three elements within itself, the antique, the Germanic and Christian (Islamic influence should be considered here as well). Epos had given rise to a literary genre called chivalric romance for quite a long period of time, that was considered to be a classic of its time and formed high literature of Europe, until the beginning of Modern era. It was a continuation of the ancient literary tradition, that had a hero as its central figure, who carries a passionate spirit, seeking to overcome injustice and inertia of the surrounding world. (Geydar Dzhemal, an Islamic political philosopher, had a particular interesting view of it, seeing ancient heroes as precursors of the Prophets).

With this line, not being grounded enough in the Church tradition, eventually started experiencing protracted crisis. Chivalric romance degenerates into a literature with lower artistic value, although still carries remains of its spirit. Historically, this coincides with decline of the nobility as a class and the rise of absolutist tendencies in the European institutions of monarchy.

Here comes out a Spaniard, who is experiencing, the problems of the class in a hard way, to which he actually does not belong. At the same time, he writes a pasquinade on chivalric romances and creates an image that eventually makes his novel one of the most influential works in the world literature. This is about Miguel Cervantes and his Don Quixote.

Cervantes descended from the family of baptized Marranos, who at some point managed to get the title from nobility. Therefore, in the struggle of hidalgo and upstart Semite, which most likely took place within the author himself, the Semite won. “Don Quixote”, according to Pío Baroja, is, without doubt, a “Semitic book”. As for an Iberian, “it would never come to his mind to mock such a hero as Don Quixote”, — Baroja writes. “There had to exist this anti-idealistic mood, which arose in the cellars and ghetto, in order to dare to beat with sticks the brave and fearless hidalgo; for this there had to exist that hatred to the sublime, to the idea of personal devotion, which was a characteristic of a Spaniard, a Spaniard as he used to be”1. Thus, “Don Quixote” is one of the very first events of post-Modern reality, overpassing its time, where everything is mocked and doubted, and all traditional values are thrown down.

The state of nobility at the era of decline of the Nobles of the Sword is rather a tragedy, and it is very doubtful that at the beginning of 17th century, the old provincial castles of Spain were inhabited by enthusiastic idiots. Quixotism was brought to life by the genius Cervantes and became a kind of curse for all succeeding authors who tried to revive heroic tradition in literature.

An honest, noble, and flawless in every sense character, became doomed since then. Talented authors, like Alexander Dumas, tended to endow their characters with a whole set of features, that fortunately, a child wouldn’t notice while reading, but an adult will pay attention. Whoever reread The Three Musketeers as an adult, probably, with a bit of a disappointment realized that the Musketeers were not noble knights at all, rather, they were morons who were not lacking in elegance and glimmering generosity with the spirit of that time. Even if an author honestly tried to create a protagonist as such, he would eventually fail in one way or another. His protagonist always would be overshadowed by brightness of the charismatic villain as an ancillary character. And, even incredible characters of Walter Scott look more of young and gallant fellows, than embodiment of the image of authentic futuwwa.

Eventually attempts to create such character moved away from the mainstream literature to specific genre of Paraliterature, while realism engaged in depicting social scourges. It was brilliantly noted by Julius Evola that “minor sentimental, sexual and social problems, inherent for equally insignificant individuals”. From certain moment, European literature semiticised more, taking out every customary soil from its core. The very artistic reliability of uniquely positive hero was doubted and turned into some sort of cliche, a sign of low-grade literature. Nowadays it is common to think that if a character suffers from mental disorder, perversion, or being a freak, who constantly and in general represents a complete inadequacy, then this is truly realistic, and this is about “life as it is.” Or, maybe everyone is satisfied with the concept of “ordinary characters”, which has combination of different and controversial features, both good and bad. Modern audience recognize themselves in such individuals, and all this goes on, with the same dull way.

But, perhaps, the saddest conclusion for today, especially for Muslims, is that quixotism (i.e. a combination of noble heart and strong will, with the lack of slightest sense of reality) is often present in a sincere struggle for a just cause.

By Daria Rusanova


1 Pío Baroja, «El mundo es ansí».

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