In order to attain the impossible,

one must attempt the absurd.

–Miguel De Cervantes

Salvodar Dali’s illustration of the famous scene from the novel, where Don Quixote fights the windmills.

 

Miguel de Cervantes was born on September 29, 1547, in Spain, almost six decades after Reconquista. The fame of Cervantes lies in the fact that his novel Don Quixote is considered as the first modern European novel and the greatest one of all times. The novel–while many people read it as a funny account of foolish adventurism by the protagonist, Don Quixote– in reality, offers some sober reflection on the Spain of those days. The book is a commentary on the social, political and cultural environment of the country. Reading of the novel between the lines reveals that the author is registering a literary protest against Christian fundamentalism that destroyed a synthesis of three different cultures, i.e. Muslim, Jewish and Christian that was made possible under Muslim Spain. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism was the norm in the Spain of 16th and 17th centuries.

While the West takes pride in being the bearer of the enlightenment and civilisation projects, the sad reality is that today once again Europe, including Spain, is preaching Islamophobia with the same old fervour. Not much has changed. Muslims today are ‘the others’ as they were then.