Europe notre mère, notre avenir

Erasmus represents one of the great figures of European identity. Faithful to its heritage, the Erasmus House relays this call launched by Carlo Ossola, professor at the Collège de France: "Europe our mother, our future". Read the text of the call.

Félix Coghen

Europe our mother, our future

We are going through an epidemic crisis that is weakening the European conscience. It is not the first time; but we must know how to build from the strength and sap of our roots.

First of all, a historical observation: just a century ago, T. S. Eliot, faced with the massacre of the First World War (which was above all a European civil war) and the scourge of the "Spanish Flu", wrote The Waste Land. We must reread this poem for our present, and especially its finale; it contemplated the "falling towers" of "Jerusalem, Athens, Alexandria / Vienna / London", now ghosts. He then summoned European civilization as a hole: the Pervigilium Veneris, Dante, Gerard de Nerval, to conclude: "These fragments I have shored against my ruins".

I belong to a generation whose parents suffered and paid dearly for the evils of the Second World War; for us, the rebirth of Europe was our bread, our dream. To each new generation we must repeat the verses of Vittorio Sereni, poet and prisoner in Algeria (1943-1945), a citizen of a future Europe, in search of an identity that is still undefined but already invoked: "Europe, Europe who watch me / descending unarmed and absorbed / in my slender myth amid the ranks of the brutal / I'm one of your sons in flight who knows /no enemy if not his own sorrow", (Italiano in Grecia); "That's why someone tonight / touched my shoulder murmuring / pray for Europe" (Non sa più nulla, è alto sulle ali).

We are in a third world crisis: our enemy is the death of the future. Europe is not the sum of its states, its languages, its traditions; more than these elements, Europe is built from extra freedom, dignity and solidarity which it has made available to its citizens in each epoch thanks to the primacy of the future over the miseries and selfishness of the present.

From here, at the Erasmus House, it is once again necessary to proclaim what that great spirit, one of the fathers of Europe, wrote as the conclusion of his Lament for Peace: "Here you all may demonstrate how strong the solidarity of the multitude proves against the tyranny of the powerful. Let everyone equally offer their own thoughts in support of this goal. Let eternal solidarity join you all whom nature, and Christ moreso, has joined in many ways. Let everyone strive in common, for this tends toward everyone's happiness equally."

Let this crisis not be an opportunity to aggravate the Europe of inequalities, to call into question our common homeland. "You see how nothing has been achieved by forming leagues," - Erasmus reminds us - "nothing advanced by alliances, nothing by force, nothing by vengeance. Now, rather, try what mildness, what kindness can do in the face of peril."

For all of us, children of Europe, this is the hour of solidarity, the hour of a future of unity, of sharing, of generosity.

Carlo Ossola
Professor at the Collège de France
Chair of "Modern Literatures of Neolatin Europe"

"Littérature, Europe et petites vertus"

Meeting with Carlo Ossola, great historian of Italian and European literature, holder of the chair "Littératures modernes de l'Europe néolatine" at the Collège de France. A tireless explorer of European civilization, Carlo Ossola invites us to become more human thanks to our "Common Virtues". (ed. Les Belles Lettres).

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