For today’s conservatives enduring the assaults of the constant neo-Jacobin revolution of today, the adventures of Manfred Arcane are seductively reactionary.
Although the book is properly a mosaic of voices— two personalities dominate, both on the battlefield and in the documentation. The first is the heroic Christian military commander Hunyadi. The second figure is far less remembered today, the Franciscan friar Saint John of Capistrano, sometimes called the Soldier Saint although the only “weapons” he carried were a crucifix and a banner.
Beneath the tales of Almanzor’s campaigns is an intriguing subtext which seems to subvert preconceived modern Muslim and Christian notions of what medieval warfare between the two great religions was actually like in Al-Andalus.
One figure worthy of rediscovery, especially for those of a conservative or religious inclination, is the French soldier and writer Ernest Psichari who converted during his time as a soldier between 1909 and 1912, in what is today Mauritania.
As a work of serial military fabulism, Ezquerra’s book is an interesting cultural artifact. I laughed more than once at the author’s sheer gall, but Ezquerra himself is an unpleasant figure. A literary liar is bad enough; a Nazi literary liar seems even more obscene.
Howard, the writers who influenced him, and many of those that came after in the same heroic vein seem more outside the pale of literary respectability than they would have been a century ago. It is not just the artificial divide between Literature with a capital L and popular genre fiction, or the modern disdain for the writers of the past. The even greater divide is between unironically portraying heroism in the West and despising it and deconstructing it in order to bring about its demise.