The Last of the Abencerrajes - François-René de Chateaubriand. A translation into English by A. S. Kline. Illustrated with Lithographs by Francisco Javier Parcerisa.
Chateaubriand’s tale of a great love thwarted by religion and destiny, is set in 15th century Spain, and centres on the last of the Moorish tribe of the Abencerrages who, legend has it, held high position in the kingdom of Granada. The city was the last to be governed by the Moors, and its surrender to Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492, by Muhammad XII (Boabdil) marked the end of the Reconquista and the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain.
The idea of a doomed relationship between a Christian and a Muslim protagonist appears in a number of earlier works in Europe, for example the 12th or 13th century French chantefable of Aucassin and Nicolette, while the theme of lovers separated by fate, exemplified by Romeo and Juliet or the historical 12th century figures of Abélarde and Héloïse, had particular appeal for Chateaubriand, who gives us variations of the idea in his American novellas Atala and René.
A particular strength of this story of Granada, besides the charm of its telling and the beauty of its setting, is Chateaubriand’s ability to give equal weight and sympathy to two diverse cultures, while himself believing in the ultimate superiority of the Christian faith. This exaltation of human virtues above particular time and circumstance is one of Chateaubriand’s most endearing characteristics.
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