Don Quixote, which fully title of the book is The history of the valorous and wittie Knight-Errant Don-Quixote of the Mancha is a Spanish novel written by Miguel de Cervantes de Saavedra. Published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As an important book of modern Western literature, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.
It could be affirmed that in Don Quixote everything is included: freedom, dignity, nature, virtue, good, hope, friendship, gratitude, effort, action, adventure, imagination, truth, and above all, Justice and Peace.
Cervantes recalled that peace is the greatest boon that men can desire in this life. The first good news the world and mankind received was that which the angels announced on the night that was our day, when they sang in the air, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good-will.
Dostoyevsky deeply admired this book. He himself emphasized in his Diary of a Writer that “there is no deeper or more vigorous invention than this. This book is the last and highest expression of human thought”.
It should not be forgotten that Cervantes is a cultivated man, a profound expert of the classics, and is, in definitive, a humanist influenced by Erasmus, with a vision of life full of understanding, a world which turned its back on cosmopolitanism, and became more rigid and intolerant.
Along with Cervantes, there exist other thinkers of the Renaissance, qualified as utopian, such as Erasmus or Luis Vives, who reflected more on peace than on war.
The Cervantes’s pacifist convictions stemming from Humanism are reflected in his famous discourse on Arms and Letters in which he openly condemns war in the following terms:
“Happy the blest ages that knew not the dread fury of those devilish engines of artillery, whose inventor I am persuaded is in hell receiving the reward of his diabolical invention, by which he made it easy for a base and cowardly arm to take the life of a gallant gentleman; and that, when he knows not how or whence, in the height of the ardour and enthusiasm that fire and animate brave hearts, there should come some random bullet, discharged perhaps by one who fled in terror at the flash when he fired off his accursed machine, which in an instant puts an end to the projects and cuts off the life of one who deserved to live for ages to come”.
Although he attempts to approach the discourse of those who defend arms as a means of defending law, finally he denounces this practice:
“To this arms make answer that without them laws cannot be maintained, for by arms states are defended, kingdoms preserved, cities protected, roads made safe, seas cleared of pirates; and, in short, if it were not for them, states, kingdoms, monarchies, cities, ways by sea and land would be exposed to the violence and confusion which war brings with it, so long as it lasts and is free to make use of its privileges and powers. And then it is plain that whatever costs most is valued and deserves to be valued most. To attain to eminence in letters costs a man time, watching, hunger, nakedness, headaches, indigestions, and other things of the sort, some of which I have already referred to. But for a man to come in the ordinary course of things to be a good soldier costs him all the student suffers…”
In his book, Cervantes tries to idealize a past world where there was no rivalry among human beings as the main cause of conflicts in the world.
In his chapter on What befell Don Quixote with certain goatherds, Cervantes dreams in a golden age in where harmony and peace reigned over the earth.
“Happy the age, happy the time, to which the ancients gave the name of golden, not because in that fortunate age the gold so coveted in this our iron one was gained without toil, but because they that lived in it knew not the two words “mine” and “thine!”
On this matter, Cervantes illustrates in his famous sonnet, included in the Chapter on the priest and the barber, the need to pursue friendship among human beings as follows:
When heavenward, holy Friendship, thou didst go
soaring to seek thy home beyond the sky,
and take thy seat among the saints on high,
it was thy will to leave on earth below
thy semblance, and upon it to bestow
thy veil, wherewith at times hypocrisy,
parading in thy share, deceives the eye,
and makes its vileness bright as virtue show.
Friendship, return to us, or force the cheat
that wears it now, thy livery to restore,
by aid whereof sincerity is slain.
if thou wilt not unmask thy counterfeit,
this earth will be the prey of strife once more,
as when primaeval discord held its reign.