Díaz-Más, Paloma 1954-
Díaz-Más, Paloma 1954-
Born 1954, in Madrid, Spain.
Home—Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Office— University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain.
University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, professor of Spanish and Sephardic literature. Departmento de Literatura del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas de Madrid, head. Universidad del País Vasco, professor; teacher at University of Oregon and universities in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Antwerp and Ghent, Belgium, and Trento, Italy.
(Coeditor) Temas sefardíes del cancionero sefardi, Ministerio de Cultura (Madrid, Spain), 1981.
El rapto de Santo Grial, o, El caballero de la verde oliva, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1984.
Los sefardíes: Historia, lengua y cultura, Riopiedras (Barcelona, Spain), 1986, translation by George K. Zucker published as Sephardim: The Jews from Spain, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1987.
Nuestro milenio, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1987.
El sueño de Venecia, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1992.
Una ciudad llamada Eugenio, [Barcelona, Spain], 1992.
(Editor) Romancero, Critica (Barcelona, Spain), 1994.
Poesía oral sefardí, Sociedad de Culturea Valle-Inclán (Spain), 1994.
(Editor, with Carlos Mota) Proverbios morales/Sem Tob de Carrión, Cátedra, (Madrid, Spain), 1998.
La tierra fértil, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1999.
Como un libro cerrado, Editorial Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 2005.
Contributor to books, including La memoria historica en las letras hispanicas contemporaneas, and the fiction anthology Madres e hijas, Anagrama. Contributor to periodicals.
In a 1987 interview with Maria Luz Dieguez in Revista de Estudios Hispanicos, Paloma Díaz-Más said she "considered creative writing, research, and teaching to be complementary endeavors, each nourishing the other: ‘finally, it's all literature.’" An expert in Hispano-Jewish and Sephardic literature, her investigations of Sephardic and ballad literature led to the publication of Los sefardíes: Historia, lengua y cultura.
The Sephardim are a minority within the Jewish community, descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 who retain the Spanish language into this century. In Los sefardíes, Díaz-Más offers a comprehensive introduction to Sephardic history and culture. The book begins with an outline of the basic tenets of the Jewish religion and elaborates on the practices, history, settlement patterns, lifestyle, language, literature and the social hierarchy within the group. In her introduc- tion, the author writes: "Much has been written about the Sephardim. However, not everything said and written—by Spaniards or others—reflects the truth. … My aim—in addition to refuting some of the most often-repeated beliefs—is to give the general reader worthwhile, truthful, and well-documented information about the Sephardim, their history, their language, their culture, and their relations with Spain."
Most of the Sephardim expelled by the Spanish monarchy of Ferdinand and Isabella originally settled in Mediterranean Europe, the Low Countries, North Africa, and the Turkish Empire. In the nineteenth century, however, a second diaspora brought the Sephardim to the United States, South America, Israel, and Western Europe. The author examines the various causes of the second diaspora, and the effect of the Holocaust specifically on the Sephardim. Díaz-Más also reviews the involvement of the Sephardim in Spanish politics through the Moroccan Protectorate through the Franco era and in contemporary Spain. The final chapter focuses on the situation of the Sephardim throughout the world today.
Díaz-Más's first novel, El rapto de Santo Grial, o, El caballero de la verde oliva, is a postmodern and parodic look at the Spanish ballad genre. A number of passages are actually prose versions of original romantic ballads of the 1500s. "Her attitude toward the literature of the past," wrote Kathleen M. Green in RLA: Romance Languages Annual, "is often irreverent, as in the case of El rapto de Santo Grial, which spoofs the legends of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and their search for the Holy Grail." According to Green, Díaz-Más's work reflects Umberto Eco's argument that while we cannot destroy the past, we cannot repeat it either; and what we need to do is to reconsider it in an ironic way. Catherine Bellver reviewed the book in the Romantic Review: "The Spanish novel El rapto del Santo Grial by Paloma Diaz-Mas shows the potential for humor in postmodern literary techniques that are more often regarded as subversive."
In her analysis of El sueño de Venecia, Mercedes Mazquiaran de Rodriguez wrote in Letras Peninsulares: "If her previous novel El rapto del Santo Grial was a parodic inversion of the legend of the Grail, she here set out to simulate the style and evoke the historical period of various literary works and motifs from the sixteenth century to our time." The book opens with an allegory of history by Esteban Villegas, dated in 1651, which, according to Mazquiaran de Rodriguez, "holds the key to Díaz-Mas' intention to show the unreliability of truth in history, and the danger in interpreting literary fiction as a mirror of the world it purports to reflect." William R. Risley described the book in World Literature Today as "a finely woven tapestry of five separate episodes—or homages to different historical periods and literary styles—spanning more than three centuries and linked chiefly by geography, a family line and mansion, the theme of love, and especially one central object, a painting. Arranged chronologically, its chapters include a mid-seventeenth century romantic realistic bourgeois tragedy, a poetic post-civil war account of a little girl's fears and fantasies, and the report of a contemporary art historian."
The first chapter introduces Pablillo, a penniless Madrid orphan who, after many picaresque adventures, finds himself in an often-dreamed-of Venice and the lover and eventual husband Doña Gracia de Mendoza, a beautiful courtesan of Jewish ancestry. At the height of their happiness, a freed Moorish slave named Zaide paints their portrait in the style of Velázquez. Chapter two comprises the letters of a smug and condescending English nobleman denigrating the Spanish and their vulgar culture and social pretentiousness. At the mansion of his hosts, the Mendozas, he sees the portrait of Gracia and falls in love with her ideal in Pepita, the young daughter of his hosts. Finally back home in England, he is a changed man, yearning for the sun and smiles of Madrid.
Moving ahead a hundred years, Alvarito Mendoza, an orphaned young Madrileño, goes off to find his fortune in Cuba carrying his only remaining family possession—the portrait of Gracia, from which he has cut away the figure of Pablillo. After making his fortune in Cuba, he moves into his old barrio and marries Isabel, the daughter of his old friends who kept a chocolate shop. Alvarito's happiness, however, is short-lived; the lovely Isabel turns out to be his illegitimate daughter. Horrified by his sin, he commits suicide and Isabel and his son return to the chocolate shop, which she runs, "with the elegant grace of a great lady." The fourth chapter is the post-civil-war recollections of an imaginative and hypersensitive little girl with congenital heart trouble. When the poor girl finally dies, her mother covers her eyes with a painting of the Virgin Mary—the latest transformation of the portrait of Gracia.
The novel concludes in contemporary Madrid with the notes of an art critic who has done deep research into the portrait of Gracia and Pablo, even subjecting the canvas to x-ray studies. The critic gets it all wrong, asserting the signature "Z" is that of Bartolomé Zabala of Seville and that the now-remnant of a painting is part of a portrait of the family of Baltasar de Alfarache. He even traces the history of the family back to the Inquisition where they were punished as "crypto-Jews," including a Doña Francisca de Mendoza who secretly used the name Gracia, the translation of the Hebrew name Hannah. As Green concluded in her review, "His research has brought him so near and yet so far from the truth. Like the opening statements ascribed to Esteban Villegas, this chapter sounds a cautionary note. Humbled by our reading of the report, we are led to question our own certainties and to acknowledge that we, too, are fallible and memory, particularly historical memory, is less than reliable."
La tierra fértil is the story from birth to death of Arnau Bonastre, a tormented Catalan nobleman who lived in a feudal society in the rich Catalonia of the eighteenth century. As in the wheel of fortune, Bonastre's life spins and several times overruns the path from power and security to decay and misery, with its adventures and misfortunes and with cruel betrayals between members of his own family. The story is also an almost epic drama of how sons rebel against their parents, and it is the story of men and women from that medieval past who, as those of today, try to survive in this difficult world.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Díaz-Más, Paloma, Los sefardíes: Historia, lengua y cultura, Riopiedras (Barcelona, Spain), 1986.
Anales de la Literatura Espanola Contemporanea, 1997, Ofelia Ferran, interview with Paloma Díaz-Más, p. 327.
Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, July, 1998, Judith Drinkwater, John Macklin, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 317.
Confluencia, spring, 1998, Reyes Coll-Tellechea, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 61.
Hispanic Review, spring, 1995, Lisa Mazansky Zashin, review of Sephardim: The Jews from Spain, p. 212.
Indiana Journal of Hispanic Studies, fall, 1993, Linda Gould Levine, review of El rapto de Santo Grial, o, El caballero de la verde oliva, p. 181.
Intertexts, spring, 1998, Janet Perez, review of El rapto de Santo Grial, p. 83.
Letras Femeninas, spring, 2000, Maria Rey A. Lopez, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 185.
Letras Peninsulares, spring, 1995, Mercedes Mazquiaran de Rodriguez, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 7.
Library Journal, December, 1992, Libby K. White, review of Sephardim, p. 157.
Northwest Review, February, 1993, Robert Jackson and Kathryn Kruger-Hickman, review of Una ciudad llamada Eugenio, p. 74.
Reference & Research Book News, June, 1993, review of Sephardim, p. 9.
Religious Studies Review, January, 1994, review of Sephardim, p. 70
Revista de Estudios Hispanicos, January, 1988, Maria Luz Dieguez, interview with Paloma Díaz-Más, p. 77.
RLA: Romance Languages Annual, 1990, Juana Amelia Hernandez, review of El rapto de Santo Grial, p. 450; 1995, Kathleen M. Glenn, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 483.
Romance Philology, February, 1996, Manuel da Costa Fontes, review of Romancero, p. 496.
Romantic Review, January, 1996, Catherine Bellver, review of El rapto de Santo Grial, p. 145.
World and I, August, 1993, review of Sephardim, p. 328.
World Literature Today. winter, 1994, William R. Risley, review of El sueño de Venecia, p. 87.