The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 gave rise to a series of rich, diverse diasporas that were interconnected through a common vision and joie de vivre. The exodus took these Sephardim to other European countries; to North Africa, Asia Minor, and South America; and, eventually, to the American colonies. In each community new literary and artistic forms grew out of the melding of their Judeo-Spanish legacy with the cultures of their host countries, and that process has continued to the present day. This multilingual tradition brought with it both opportunities and challenges that will resonate within any contemporary culture: the status of minorities within the larger society; the tension between a civil, democratic tradition and the anti-Semitism ready to undermine it; and the opposing forces of religion and secularism.
Ilan Stavans has been described by The Washington Post as "Latin America's liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast." And the Forward calls him "a maverick intellectual whose canonical work has already produced a whole array of marvels that are redefining Jewishness." This new anthology contains fiction, memoirs, essays, and poetry from twenty-eight writers who span more than 150 years. Included are Emma Lazarus's legendary poem "The New Colossus," inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty; the hypnotizing prose of Greece-born, Switzerland-based Albert Cohen; Nobel--Prize winner Elias Canetti's ruminations on Europe before World War II; Albert Memmi's identity quest as an Arab Jew in France; Primo Levi's testimony on the Holocaust; and A. B. Yehoshua's epic stories set in Israel today.
When read together, these explorations offer an astonishingly incisive collective portrait of the "other Jews," Sephardim who long for la Espa�a perdida, their lost ancestral home, even as they create a vibrant, multifaceted literary tradition in exile.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Knopf Group E-Books
January 10, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature by Ilan Stavans
Grace Aguilar Grace Aguilar (England, 1816–1847) is considered the first Anglo-Jewish novelist. Her work was a response, in part, to the representation of Jews in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and to Thomas Macaulay’s views on Judaism. In her short career—she died in Frankfurt at the age of thirty-one of a spinal ailment affecting her muscles and lungs—she published poetry, fiction, essays, and a history of the Jews in England. Aguilar is the author of the popular novels Home Influence: A Tale for Mothers and Daughters (1847), its sequel, A Mother’s Recompense (1851), and The Vale of Cedars; or, The Martyr (1850). Her nonfiction includes The Spirit of Judaism (1842), The Women of Israel (1845), and The Jewish Faith (1846). Her novel The Perez Family, released in 1843 by a publishing house dedicated to the edification of working-class Jews and therefore called Cheap Jewish Library, is an insider’s depiction of Jewish life in Victorian England. (The most famous slice of that life, Israel Zangwill’s Children of the Ghetto, would not appear until 1892.) Aguilar’s poems, published in journals such as The Occident, imagine the affection of Jews for the Spanish soil, and also deal with Jerusalem, the Sabbath, and the Jews in Russia. Her short story “The Escape,” published in 1844, is set in Portugal, from which her ancestors fled to escape the Inquisition, finding refuge in England. The Escape. A Tale of 1755 Dark lowers our fate, And terrible the storm that gathers o’er us; But nothing, till that latest agony Which severs thee from nature, shall unloose This fixed and sacred hold. In thy dark prison-house; In the terrific face of armed law; Yea! on the scaffold, if it needs must be, I never will forsake thee. —Joanna Baillie About the middle of the eighteenth century, the little town of Montes, situated some forty or fifty miles from Lisbon, was thrown into most unusual excitement by the magnificence attending the nuptials of Alvar Rodríguez and Almah Díaz: an excitement which, the extraordinary beauty of the bride, who, though the betrothed of Alvar from her childhood, had never been seen in Montes before, of course not a little increased. The little church of Montes looked gay and glittering for the large sums lavished by Alvar on the officiating priests, and in presents to their patron saints, had occasioned every picture, shrine, and image to blaze in uncovered gold and jewels, and the altar to be fed with the richest incense, and lighted with tapers of the finest wax, to do him honour. The church was full; for, although the bridal party did not exceed twenty, the village appeared to have emptied itself there; Alvar’s munificence to all classes, on all occasions, having rendered him the universal idol, and caused the fame of that day’s rejoicing to extend many miles around. There was nothing remarkable in the behaviour of either bride or bridegroom, except that both were decidedly more calm than such occasions usually warrant. Nay, in the manly countenance of Alvar ever and anon an expression seemed to flit, that in any but so true a son of the church would have been accounted scorn. In such a one, of course it was neither seen nor regarded, except by his bride; for at such times her eyes met his with an earnest and entreating glance, that the peculiar look was changed into a quiet, tender seriousness, which reassured her. From the church they adjourned to the lordly mansion of Rodríguez, which, in the midst of its flowering orange and citron trees, stood about two miles from the town. The remainder of the day passed in festivity. The banquet, and dance, and song, both within and around the house, diversified the scene and increased hilarity in al