Tom Holland

Islam & Influence

The first great European novel was written by a Muslim. That, at least, is one of the many jokes that Cervantes plays upon his readers in Don Quixote. At the beginning of the novel, we are told how the narrator came across an Arabic manuscript in the marketplace of Toledo, written by one Cide Hamete Benengeli – ‘Sir Hamid Aubergine’. The adventures of Don Quixote, so Cervantes pretends, are nothing less than a translation of this enigmatic manuscript. ‘If any objection can be made against the truth of this history,’ we are assured, ‘it can only be that its narrator was an Arab.’ 

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