Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Very Brief History of Ladino Literature/ Manuel Forcano’s “Catalan Jews”

"The Sephardi Jews who settled in the Ottoman empire created a rich and varied literature in Ladino—their own dialect of Spanish written in Hebrew characters. Avner Perez traces the history of this literature and its connection to contemporary Spanish literature:

For a long time, researchers thought that literary creation in Ladino had only begun in the first third of the 18th century. Material discovered in recent years has given us a completely different picture. The intellectual elite of the exiled Jews spoke a [uniquely Jewish] dialect, but was still part of the Hispanic world and used literary Castilian in its literary creations. What set [the language of these works] apart [from standard Castilian Spanish] was its use of Hebrew characters as well as the presence of other [distinctive Ladino features].

Three pieces of classical theater in Judeo-Spanish printed in Hebrew characters, dating back to the end of the 16th century, have come down to us. They were the first such pieces printed in Hebrew characters. Two of them, Aquilana, by Bartolome de Torres Navarro (1480-1530), and Tragedia Josephina, by Micael de Carvajal (who died in 1578), are pieces of Spanish classical theater [rendered into an early form of Ladino]. The third, Ma’aseh Yosef (“Joseph’s Tale”), . . . is an original work. All this shows that the intelligentsia that descended from exiles from Spain had a rich cultural life. The channels through which they received the Spanish Renaissance culture were still open.”  [Source: Mosaic.]

Manuel Forcano launched his new book last week...

"(Barcelona, 1968; philologist, poet, translator), Els jueus catalans. La història que mai no t’han explicat. [The Catalan Jews: the history they never told you], 384 pages.

The publisher’s summary:

This book gives an overview of the history of Jews in Catalonia, from the first mentioning to the current Jewish communities. When they arrived, where they settled, how they lived, who persecuted them and for which reasons, how they survived the attacks, where and how they prayed, how they organized themselves, which figures led them, what of them has survived, what they wrote and if they did so in Hebrew or Catalan – these are some of the questions that the book answers in an informative and entertaining way. During their century-long presence in Catalonia, from the Jewish communities arose geographers, grammaticians, physicians, poets, philosophers, theologians and kabbalists of enormous prestige, even today venerated in the Jewish world, but unfortunately hardly known in Catalonia.”

Read more from source, Literary Rambles blog here.

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