Spanish and Portuguese literature
SPANISH AND PORTUGUESE LITERATURE
Biblical and Hebraic Influences
One result of the Christian struggle against Muslim invaders of the Iberian peninsula from the eighth century onward was the blending of national and religious aspirations, which revealed itself in Spanish literature. Jews and Christians cooperated in translating the Bible into the vernacular, and the Old Testament version was taken direct from the Hebrew in renderings that antedate 1250. Thus, although Juan i of Aragon prohibited such activities in 1233, *Alfonso the Wise (Alfonso x of Castile, 1221–1284) enthusiastically encouraged the translation of the Bible into Spanish. Indeed, Alfonso himself, in his General e grande Estoria, linked the history of the world as known in his time with the Hebraic history of the Bible. In the 15th century further biblical projects were promoted by Jews or Conversos. The version by Moses *Arragel (1422) was followed by that published by Abraham *Usque, whose Ferrara Bible (1553) appeared in two slightly differing editions. Usque's Bible inspired Jewish translations into Judeo-Spanish or *Ladino, the dialect of Spanish which Jewish exiles took with them after the Expulsion of 1492. With the official Catholic ban on Spanish versions of the Bible a century later, these became a Jewish monopoly, and after 1600 Spain ceased to be a Bible-reading country until the Spanish hierarchy changed its policy at the end of the 18th century.
During the Renaissance, however, the Bible was a significant influence in Spanish and Portuguese literature, though more especially among writers of Jewish or *Marrano origin, whether in the Iberian peninsula or abroad. Luis de *León (1527–1591), a humanist scholar and poet whose New Christian descent was responsible for his spending five years in the cells of the Inquisition, is said to have translated the Song of Songs from the Hebrew, and biblical themes and metaphors greatly influenced his original verse. Much the same may be said of the mystical poets of the Spanish Renaissance, notably Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591). Biblical echoes can even be found in the works of a completely secular writer such as Garcilaso de la Vega (1503–1536). Diego Sánchez (c. 1530) composed a Farsa de Salomón and other plays on Abraham, Moses, and David; Micael de Carvajal (c. 1575) wrote a drama about Joseph; and the 96 biblical autos of the Madrid Codex (1550–75) include 26 on Old Testament subjects. Solomón *Usque (c. 1530–c. 1596), a professing Jew of Marrano origin, wrote a Spanish Purim play, Ester, first staged in the Venice ghetto in 1558.
Biblical drama and poetry really became prominent, however, from the 17th century. In Spain the prolific Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez, c. 1584–1648) composed La mejor espigadera (1634), based on the story of Ruth; and La venganza de Tamar (1634), a drama about Absalom. The Old Testament played an even more important part in the writings of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681), who made use of the biblical themes of the Babylonian captivity (in La cena de Baltasar), the Ark of the Covenant, David, Solomon, and Job for his autos sacramentales (religious plays). The auto of Spain's Golden Age had been anticipated to a great extent by the religious plays and moralities of Gil Vicente (c. 1465–c. 1536), a Portuguese court dramatist, many of whose works were written in Spanish. Writers of Jewish origin inspired by the Bible include Felipe *Godínez (c. 1588–c. 1639), a Seville dramatist and preacher, who wrote plays about Isaac, David, Haman and Mordecai, Job, and Judith. Others who left the peninsula to take refuge abroad were Francisco (Joseph) de *Caceres, whose Los siete Días de la Semana (1612) was an adaptation of a Creation epic, La Semaine, by the French Protestant *Du Bartas; David *Abenatar Melo, a Marrano revert to Judaism, who published a Spanish verse rendering of the Psalms (1626); and Antonio Enríquez *Gómez, an immensely popular writer, whose works include the biblical epic, El Sansón Nazareno (1656) and La Torre de Babilonia (1647). Two Portuguese Marrano poets who found inspiration in the Bible were João (Mose) *Pinto Delgado (d. 1653), a leader of the Crypto-Jewish community in Rouen, who dedicated to Cardinal Richelieu his Poema de la Reyna Ester, Lamentaciones del Profeta Jeremías, and Historia de Rut (Rouen, 1687); and Miguel de *Silveyra, whose baroque masterpiece, El Macabeo (Naples, 1638), was written in Spanish. The early 18th-century author Isaac Cohen de *Lara wrote a graceful Comedia famosa de Amán y Mordochay (Amsterdam, 1699), based on the Book of Esther and the related midrashic traditions, and a ballad about Jacob which was printed in the same volume. The works of Abraham de *Bargas, a refugee Marrano author and physician, included ethical discourses on the Bible, Pensamientos sagrados y educaciones morales (Leghorn, 1749).
During the 18th and 19th centuries biblical and other Hebraic themes became less common in Spanish and Portuguese literature, perhaps as a result of political and social conservatism and the disappearance of the Jews. Even in the 20th century, interest in these subjects has been largely restricted. A remarkable exception was the eminent Spanish novelist and critic Rafael Cansinos-Assens (1883–1964) of Marrano descent. Reverting to Judaism, he studied Hebrew and wrote a series of works on Jewish themes. These include Psalmos. El candelabro de los siete brazos (1914), love poems in "biblical" style; Las bellezas del Talmud (1919), translated selections; Salomé en la literatura (1919); Cuentos judios (1922); Las luminarias de Hanukah; Un episodio de la historia de Israel en España (1924), a novel; and El amor en el Cantar de los Cantares (1930), with texts in Hebrew and Spanish.
The Image of the Jew in Spanish Literature
Jews have generally been portrayed in Spanish literature in an unfavorable guise. Their earliest appearance is in the epic Poems del Cid (or Cantar de Mío Cod (c. 1140)) in which two moneylenders, Raquel and Vidas, are cheated by El Cid, the national hero, giving him 600 marks on the security of a richly decorated chest filled with sand. The episode has been variously interpreted, but it must have appealed to the antisemitism of the audiences listening to a troubadour telling the story. In his Milagros de Nuestra Señora, the poet Gonzalo de Berceo (c. 1195–c. 1265) repeats several miracles involving Jews, tales which enjoyed a European vogue: the Jews who are converted are saved, the others are portrayed as diabolical figures deserving the punishments of Hell. The 13th-century Disputa entre un cristiano y un judío, typical of the disputation literature written by Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Spain, is remarkable only for its coarseness and for the Christian's prurient interest in the Jewish rite of circumcision. Perhaps the most favorable medieval Spanish treatment of the Jew is found in the works of the infante Don Juan Manuel (1282–1348). In his Libro de los castigos Juan Manuel wrote with great sympathy of his doctor, Don Salamón, and recommended him in glowing terms to his son. In the 14th century, the poet and historian Pedro Lopez de Ayala (1332–1407) castigated the powerful court Jews in his Rimado de Palacio, a work satirizing all the contemporary ills of the nation as he saw them, and not specifically antisemitic. In the same century, the archpriest of Hita (Juan Ruiz, c. 1283–c. 1350) composed songs for Moorish and Jewish dancing girls, as well as for Christians. The late 14th- or early 15th-century Danza de la muerte (Dance of Death) hispanicizes a widespread European type of satire in that it includes a Moorish alfaquí and a rabbi among those whom Death invites to dance, treating them no better and no worse than the other victims.
Conversos and Marranos
Not surprisingly, the literature of the 15th century, reflecting the mounting tensions and hatreds of the period, is full of antisemitic references. Both Jews and Conversos (especially the latter) are objects of scorn, and are depicted as cowardly, sly, and mercenary. Juan Alfonso de *Baena's Cancionero (1445), an anthology of the 14th- and 15th-century verse, contains several attacks on Jews and Conversos, as well as one or two contributions by Jews. The somewhat later Coplas del Provincial, a vicious libel on the highest nobility of the country, accuses the hidalgos mainly of sexual deviation and Judaizing. The Converso poet Rodrigo de *Cota de Maguaque (c. 1460), who alluded to Jewish customs of his time, was outspokenly hostile to both Jews and Marranos. For this he was vigorously attacked by another Converso poet, Antón de *Montoro, who also engaged in a poetic feud with a third New Christian writer, Juan (Poeta) de *Valladolid.
The post-expulsion literature of the 16th and, even more, of the 17th centuries – Spain's Golden Age of letters – had its share of anti-Jewish attacks and plays on words and concepts. Ecclesiastical censorship limited the range of satire, but the Conversos were one of the acceptable targets. To call a man a "Jew" was a serious insult, and even the slightest reflection on his *limpieza de sangre ("purity of blood") was considered grossly offensive. Satirical references were made to the supposed physical imperfections of the Jew, to his desire for social position, and to his beliefs and practices. Names suggestive of Jewish identity were ridiculed, and the allegation that a person had an aversion to pork was a stock-in-trade insult. Even the verb esperar (to wait) became a cliché, referring to the patience of the Jews awaiting the Messiah. The satirist Quevedo (Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas, 1580–1645) attacked his literary rival, Luis de Góngora (1561–1627), with allusions to his nose – it was commonly believed that the nose revealed a man's Jewish origin – and threatened to anoint his own poems with bacon so that Góngora would be deterred from stealing them. Quevedo's writings were probably the most insistently anti-Jewish of the period, except for specifically anti-Jewish literature, such as sermons at *autos-da-fé, which were printed and widely read. By contrast, the Navarrese physician and writer Juan *Huarte de San Juan displayed marked sympathy for the Jews in his Examen de ingenios para las ciencias (1575), where he even suggested that Jews were especially suited to the practice of medicine. The great novelist Miguel de *Cervantes Saavedra who (like Huarte de San Juan) has been claimed as a Marrano, occasionally indulged in anti-Jewish poems, but derided the doctrine of limpieza. Two of his plays barely disguise his admiration for the Jew's religious tenacity and national vitality.
Other writers who used conventional attacks and jokes at Jewish expense were Tirso de Molina, Lope de Vega, Alonso Castillo Solórzano (1854–c. 1648), and Calderón. A more vicious accusation (found in Tirso's La Prudencia en la mujer, 1634) was that Converso doctors murdered their Christian patients. Lope de Vega's play, El niño inocente de la Guardia (1617), repeated the charge that the Marranos committed ritual murder (see *Blood Libel). Such an accusation was rare after 1492, when New Christians often occupied positions of power and could be formidable enemies. The story of the *Jewess of Toledo, the mistress of Alfonso viii, provided the theme forcomedias by Lope de Vega (Las paces de los reyes y judía de Toledo, 1617), Antonio Mira de Amescua (c. 1574–1644), and Juan Bautista Diamante (1625–1687) whose La judía de Toledo (1673) endows the Jews with noble characters. The best work of the 18th-century neoclassical theater in Spain is La Raquel (1778), a tragedy on the same theme by Vicente García de la Huerta (1734–87).
Modern Spanish Writers
Jewish characters are relatively unimportant in modern Spanish literature. The 19th-century romantics, Bécquer, Larra, and Zorrilla, occasionally wrote of exotic Jewish types, but displayed little sympathy for them. Among novelists, Benito Perez Galdós (1843–1920) in Misericordia (1897) created the delightful character of Almudena, who is described as a Moor but whose patois is based on some linguistic elements of *Ladino speech. In Fortunata y Jacinta (1886–87) Galdós shows that in the late 19th century Marranos were still thought to dominate Madrid business circles. Pío Baroja y Nessi (1872–1956), who was opposed to almost everything, also displayed literary antisemitism. In the 20th century, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867–1928), a revolutionary writer who claimed Jewish descent, dealt with the problem of Majorca's *Chuetas in his novel, Los Muertos mandan (1909; "The Dead Command," 1919). Another liberal writer, Salvador de Madariaga (1886–1978), recreated in his novel El corazón de piedra verde (1943; "The Heart of Jade," 1944) the violent and romantic world of the 16th-century half-Jewish conquistador Sebastiano Garcilaso (d. 1559), father of the Peruvian historian, Garcilaso de la Vega ("El Inca," c. 1540–1616). A monumental work is the three-volume Judíos en la España moderna y contemporánea (1962) of Julio Caro Baroja. Among works by R. Cansinos Asséns in the same field are España y los judios espanoles … (1917) and Los judíos en la literatura Española en Sefard; episodios y símbolos (1950).
The Image of the Jew in Portuguese Literature
In general, the attitude toward Jews in Portuguese literature parallels that of Spanish writers. Portuguese literature is of somewhat later origin than Castilian, and medieval references are rare. There are occasional anti-Jewish remarks in the Cantigas d'escarnho e maldizer (13th–14th century), and it is worth recording that Alfonso x of Castile wrote his Cantigas de Santa María in Galician, a dialect of Portuguese. Fifteen of the miracles described here deal with Jews, who are portrayed as child-murderers, cheats, and agents of the devil. The Cancioneiro Geral (1516) of García de Resende (1470–1536) contains many satirical references to Jews, and Anrique da Mota pokes fun at the misfortunes of a Jewish tailor in his Farsa do Alfaiate. Jewish characters appear in several works by the versatile dramatist Gil Vicente who wrote in both Portuguese and Spanish and who witnessed the expulsion and forced conversion of the Jews in Portugal. In his religious Autos de Moralidade das Barcas and the Diálogo sôbre a Ressurreiçào, he presented the stereotyped arguments about the Jews as deicides, identified with the devil, but elsewhere he portrayed Jews more realistically. In the farces Inês Pereira (1523) and Juiz da Beira (1525), Vicente's Jewish characters and customs are based on personal observation, and if there is in them an element of caricature, this is also true of his other characters. In the first part of the Auto da Lusitânia (1532) the main characters are a Jewish tailor, D. Juda, and his wife and daughter, who are treated with remarkable delicacy and respect. In other works Vicente discreetly protested against the forced conversion of Jews and brutal attacks on New Christians.
After the expulsion of 1497, Portuguese Conversos and their descendants were subjected to literary attacks. In his Apólogos Dialogaes (1721) Francisco Manuel de Melo (1608–1666) wrote satirically of the converts in business, as did Manoel Monteiro, in Academia nos montes (1642). During the 16th and 17th centuries there were also many anti-Jewish doctrinal works, some by baptized Jews such as João Baptista de Este, but these were not of a literary nature.
In the 19th century the theme of love between a Christian youth and a beautiful Jewess was used by the Visconde de Almeida Garrett (1799–1854) in his Romanceiro e Cancioneiro Geral (3 vols., 1843–51) and by the Brazilian romantic poet Antônio de Castro Alves (1847–71). The same theme is the basis of the much-recited romantic poem "A Judía" of Tomás Ribeiro (1831–1901). A defense of the Jews was put forward by Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo (1810–1877) in his classical História da origem e estabelecimento da Inquisção em Portugal (3 vols., 1854–59). Other writers who championed the Jews were the novelists Camilo Castelo Branco (1825–1890), himself of Jewish descent, and José Maria de Eça de Queirós (1846–1900), who wrote a scathing denunciation of German antisemitism and Bismarck's anti-Jewish policy in the sixth of his Cartas de Inglaterra (1903) and gave a remarkably vivid picture of life in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus in his novel A Relíquia. The martyred 18th-century playwright Antônio José da *Silva, was the central character of several works, including Castelo Branco's novel, O Judeu (2 vols., 1866), and the romantic drama, Antônio José – o Poeta e a Inquisição, by the Brazilian Domingos José Gonçalves de Magalhães (1811–1882).
The Jewish Contribution to Spanish Literature
The contribution of the Sephardim to Spanish literature was from the 12th to the 17th centuries, but a distinction must be made between the literary role of professing Jews and that of Conversos or New Christians, who were merely of Jewish origin. Spanish literature's earliest monuments, whose importance was discovered only in the 20th century, are intimately related to the two Semitic peoples living in Andalusia. These are the jarchas – short poetic endings, in colloquial Arabic or Mozarabic transcribed into Arabic or Hebrew characters, to longer compositions in classical Arabic or Hebrew, known as muwashashat. Of the more than 50 jarchas that are known, at least 20 form the endings to Hebrew muwashshat. The earliest was part of a muwashshat ("girdle poem") written by Joseph the Scribe and dedicated to Ismail ibn Nagrela (i.e., *Samuel ha-Nagid) and his brother Isaac. Believed to have been written before 1042, it constitutes the oldest known lyric poetry in any language of western Europe, antedating even the earliest Provençal poems. Jarchas are to be found in muwashshat of the great Hebrew poets of Spain, Moses *Ibn Ezra, *Judah Halevi, and Meir ben Todros ha-Levi *Abulafia.
translators and poets
The Jews of medieval Spain also distinguished themselves as translators, forming an important bridge between Oriental, scientific, and ethical knowledge and the nascent European culture (see *Translations). Possessing a knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew, and one or another of the Romance languages, they were invaluable collaborators. The task of imparting Arabic learning to the western world was not limited to any one center, but of them all the most important was Toledo. In the 12th century Archbishop Raimundo (d. 1152) gathered Jews, Christians, and Moors there to translate Arabic scientific and philosophical texts. The prologue to the Latin version of *Avicenna's De Anima tells how the work was done. Juan Hispano, a Converso, translated orally from Arabic into Romance, which Dominicus Gundisalvi in turn translated into Latin. The Latin was written down by a scribe. In the 13th century Toledo was again a center of cultural activity, but now works were translated from Arabic into Castilian, reflecting the wish of Alfonso x to make the spoken language of his country that of government and culture. Alfonso's Jewish translators were Isaac ibn Cid, Don Abraham, and R. Judah ben Moses ha-Kohen (Judah Mosca). Judah (Jafuda) *Bonsenyor of Barcelona (d. 1331) compiled for James ii of Aragon a volume of maxims in Catalan, mainly derived from Arabic and Jewish sources, titled Libre de Paraules e dits de Savis e Filosofs (c. 1300). Another Jewish savant was Isaac al-Carsoni, whose Hebrew astronomical tables, compiled for Pedro iv (1336–1387), were later translated into Latin and Catalan.
An early and famous Jewish composer of Spanish verse was Shem Tov b. Isaac Ardutiel, known to Spaniards as *Santob de Carrión and Don Santo. His Proverbios morales, written probably between 1355 and 1360, are the first examples of aphoristic verse in Spanish. Moses de Zaragua *Acan (c. 1300) rivals Santob as a Jewish literary pioneer in Spain. His Catalan verse treatise on chess was translated into Spanish in 1350. Jews also contributed to medieval Spanish culture through the literatura aljamiada, the name given to works in Spanish written in Arabic or Hebrew characters. An example of the latter is to be found in one of the four manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library of Santob's Proverbios (ed. by Ig. Gonzalez Wubera, 1947). This also contains a poetic treatment of the biblical story of Joseph, called Coplas de Yoçef, which was influenced by *Josephus and the Midrash, and later became important in Ladino literature.
jewish and converso writers
The writers active in Spain from the 15th century onward were invariably Marranos or Conversos, rather than professing Jews. The massacres that began in 1391, mass conversions, and the expulsion of 1492 combined to bring to an end Spanish Jewry's Golden Age and the open practice of Judaism in Spain. There were, of course, Converso writers before 1492, such as the moralist *Petrus Alfonsi in the 12th century (Disciplina clericalis, 1120), or the Christian apologist Alfonso de Valladolid (*Abner of Burgos) in the 14th. But the 15th century saw a completely new internal situation in Spain: a whole class of "New Christians" came into being, and at the same time popular antisemitism made a sharp cleavage between peoples and religions that had previously at least coexisted. The intellectual élite was composed largely of Conversos, and many of the writers and humanists who set the tone of the century were New Christians. They also rose to fame in the Church and at court. Ferdinand and Isabella, who signed the decree of expulsion, were not averse to having their deeds recorded by Conversos. Diego de Valera (c. 1412–88), who wrote the Crónica de los Reyes Católicos, was the son of Alonso *Chirino (d. 1430?), the baptized physician of Juan ii of Castile and author of some curious works on medicine. The official chronicler of the Catholic monarchs and secretary to the queen was Hernando del Pulgar (1436–1493), also thought to have been a Converso.
New Christians were among the poets active in the reign of Juan II (1458–79), and later in the century several writers of minor stature testified to the psychological state of the converts. As members of a minority group scorned and upbraided by the majority, they often took refuge in satire directed against each other – or even against themselves. In literary polemics of the era, the accusation of being a Marrano (Crypto-Jew) was frequently leveled, whether or not with justification. Among Spanish writers of real or imagined New Christian extraction were Juan *Ávarez Gato, Rodrigo de Cota de Maguaque, Juan (Poeta) de Valladolid, Juan de España, el Viejo, Juan de Mena (1411–1456), Antón de Montoro, and Alfonso de la *Torre. Beneath the badinage and cynical laughter, however, one feels the bitterness of the outcast. Two famous prose works written in the reign of Isabella of Castile were by New Christians: the Cárcel de Amor (1492) of Diego de San Pedro and La Celestina (1499), written either entirely or in large part by Fernando de *Rojas. Both works are the products of the sadness and suffering of the Conversos.
The Later Conversos
While New Christians undoubtedly played an important part in Spanish cultural life throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, it is not easy to determine their contribution with any precision, since they found it advisable to conceal their origin. As a result of the statutes on purity of blood (see limpieza de sangre), known Conversos found their opportunities for ecclesiastical, social, and political advancement severely limited, and even the most orthodox Catholics were affected. The grandfather of Spain's greatest saint and mystic, Santa Teresa of Avila, had been penanced by the Inquisition for Judaizing, and there is evidence that the father of the great 16th-century humanist, Juan Luis *Vives, was burned as a Judaizer, and that he himself attended a secret synagogue as a child.
Conversos also distinguished themselves as innovators in Spanish prose. The first pastoral novel written in Spanish was Diana (1559?) by Jorge de Montemayor (c. 1520–1561), a writer of Portuguese origin who was taunted with Jewish ancestry by one of his contemporaries. The picaresque novel, considered a peculiarly Spanish invention, owes much to Converso writers. The anonymous author of the first such work, La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), may have been a New Christian, as a brief passage at the beginning of the work is a veiled satire on racial prejudice. No picaresque novels appeared during the reign of Philip ii (1556–98), but the year following his death saw the publication of the first part of Guzmán de Alfarache (1599) by Mateo *Alemán. Luis Vélez de Guevara (1579–1644) contributed to the genre with El diablo Cojuelo (1641), as did Antonio Enriquez Gómez (see above), with El siglo pitagórico y Vida de don Gregorio Guadaña (1644). No Converso appeared in the first rank of dramatists during Spain's Golden Age, but several had their works produced on the Madrid stage. Apart from Enríquez Gómez, they include the prolific Juan Pérez de Montalván (1602–1638), the son of a New Christian bookseller and publisher, who nevertheless was appointed a notary of the Holy Office and who became a friend and follower of Lope de Vega; and Felipe Godinez (see above). From the 18th century onward, there were undoubtedly many Spanish writers of Jewish descent, but by then the question had become less important. In the 19th century, José *Taronji y Cortés, a Spanish priest and Catalan poet of Marrano origin, testified to the prejudice besetting the Chuetas of Majorca. So far as Spanish literature is concerned, however, marranismo was unimportant after the 17th century.
In the Marrano diaspora, on the other hand, professing Jews – refugees or their descendants – made an important contribution to Spanish letters throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Refugees active in Amsterdam in the latter half of the 17th century were Joseph Semah (Ẓemaḥ) *Arias, a former Spanish army captain; Francisco (Joseph) de Caceres; two poetesses, Isabel (Rebecca) de *Correa and Isabel *Enríquez; Isaac *Gómez de Sossa, whose father had been physician to the infante Fernando of Spain; Isaac Cohen de Lara; and Nicolás (Daniel Judah) de *Oliver y Fullana, a former Spanish colonel. Miguel (Daniel Levi) de *Barrios was one of the most eminent of these exiles. His travels took him to the West Indies and to the Low Countries, where he led a double life as a Spanish army captain in Brussels and as a Jew in Amsterdam.
The Jewish Contribution to Portuguese Literature
In medieval Portugal there were Jewish, as well as Moorish, troubadours, one of whom was called "O Judeu de Elvas" (the Jew of Elvas). Most Portuguese writers of Jewish descent were Marranos, and many fled their native land in the 16th and 17th centuries. Samuel *Usque's Consolaçam ás Tribulaçoens de Israel, though published abroad (Ferrara, 1553), is considered a classic of Portuguese literature. The novelist and poet Bernardim *Ribeiro, known as the father of Portuguese bucolic literature (Hystoria de Menina y Moça, Ferrara, 1554), was probably a Marrano. Manoel *Fernandes Villereal was one of the many 17th-century Portuguese authors who wrote mainly in Spanish. Perhaps the most famous victim of the Portuguese Inquisition was Antônio José da Silva ("O Judeu," 1705–1739), who was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Da Silva was one of the few important Portuguese dramatists of the 18th century, and although his career was cut short at the age of 34, his works continued to be performed and published, albeit anonymously, long after his death. Although many Portuguese writers from the 19th century onward proudly claimed Jewish ancestry, specifically Jewish contributions to the literature of Portugal effectively came to an end by 1700.
[Kenneth R. Scholberg]
The Jewish Contribution to Latin-American Literature
During the 16th and 17th centuries many writers of Marrano origin left Spain and Portugal for the New World, in the hope of finding greater freedom there. Marranos were among the most cultivated members of the new American society. In Mexico, the martyred Luis de Carvajal El Mozo (1566–1596; see *Carvajal family), nephew of the governor of New Leon, was a competent poet; in Peru, Antonio de León Pinelo (1591–1658) was one of the first American bibliographers. Two eminent Marrano writers denounced to the Brazilian Inquisition were Ambrósio Fernandes *Brandão, author of the Diálogos das Grandezas do Brasil (c. 1618), and Bento *Teixeira Pinto, author of the epic Prosopopéia (16012), the first literary work written in Brazil.
By the 19th century, Marrano culture had disappeared, and only a few Latin Americans were still conscious of their Jewish descent. In Venezuela, Abigail Lozano (1821–1866) and Salomón López Fonseca (1853–1935) were noted poets. Two other writers were Abraham López-Penha, a Dominican writer, and Efraim Cardozo, a Paraguayan historian. The Colombian novelist, Jorge *Isaacs, author of the classic, María (1867), was not of Sephardi origin, being the son of a converted English Jew. In time more liberal ideas promoted a somewhat romantic reassessment of the Crypto-Jews of Latin America, exemplified by La hija del judío, a story by Justo Sierra (1814–1861), and the novel Moisén (1924) by Julio Jiménez Rueda, both Mexican non-Jews. Moisén is notable for its bizarre presentation of the Marranos and their secret religion. Exotic Jewish characters frequently appear in the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), one of the outstanding Argentine writers of the 20th century. Borges, who was partly of Marrano descent, used kabbalistic and other Jewish elements to heighten the suspense in his tales of mystery, some of which were collected in El Aleph (1949; The Aleph and Other Stories 1933 – 1969, 1970). His admiration for the Jewish State prompted two poems about Israel written in June 1967 at the time of the Six-Day War. Four years later, in April 1971, Borges was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for his contribution to the freedom of the individual at the Fifth International Book Fair held in Israel's capital.
Contemporary Jewish Writers
Toward the end of the 19th century, Ashkenazi Jewish communities grew steadily, especially in Argentina, where the *Jewish Colonization Association (ica) resettled thousands of Jews from Russia. Two of Argentina's foremost Jewish writers, Alberto *Gerchunoff, author of Los Gauchos Judíos (1908–10), and Samuel *Eichelbaum were raised in the Argentine Jewish colonies. Carlos Moises Gruenberg (1903–1968), a prominent lawyer and poet, was known for his Mester de Judería (1940); a keen Zionist, he translated Hebrew poetry into Spanish, and he was considered a masterly stylist. Salomón Resnick (1895–1946), an essayist and translator, who edited the weekly Mundo Israelita and the literary periodical Judaica, made Yiddish literature known to the Spanish-speaking reader. Lázaro *Liacho (1897–1969), a journalist and poet, and his father, Jacob Simon Liachovitzky (1874–1937), a journalist and a leading Zionist, both wrote on Jewish themes. Enrique Espinoza (Samuel Glusberg, 1898–1987) wrote tales of Jewish life in Buenos Aires and edited Babel, a literary magazine, first in Buenos Aires and later in Santiago, Chile. César *Tiempo (Israel Zeitlin, 1905–1980), a leading poet and playwright, played a prominent part in the fight against Argentine antisemitism. Bernardo Verbitzky (1902–1979), a journalist and novelist, portrayed Jewish life and the fate of the poor. Some other Argentine writers were the novelist Max Dickmann (1897–1991), Máximo José Kahn (1897–1953), and Marcelo Menasché (1913– ). Literary essayists and historians included Albert Palcos (1894–1965), León *Dujovne, and Antonio Portnoy (1903–1958).
Max *Aub (1903–1972), who settled in Mexico, was a staunchly anti-Fascist poet, playwright, and novelist. His tragedy, San Juan (1943), dealt with the fate of Jewish refugees on a doomed ship in the Mediterranean. Jewish writers in Brazil included Fernando Levisky (1910–1982), author of Israel no Brasil (1936); the poet Idel Becker; the playwright Pedro Bloch; the novelist Clarice Lispector; Kurt Loewenstamm; and Henrique Iussim (who wrote under the name Ẓvi Yotam after emigrating to Israel).
Despite their strong Zionist sympathies, Latin America's Jewish writers rarely dealt with Ereẓ Israel in their works. One exception was Samuel Eichelbaum, whose short story, Una buena Cosecha, is set in Rosh Pinnah. A non-Jewish Venezuelan poet, Vicente Gerbasi (1913–1992), who was his country's ambassador to Israel (1960–68), included poems on Jerusalem and its Jewish inhabitants in his verse collection, Poesía de viajes (1968).
Younger Judeo-Argentinian writers continued to explore the process and problems of acculturation and assimilation which appear in the works of earlier writers like Gerchunoff. Germán Rozenmacher (1936–1971) presented an intergenerational conflict between an immigrant cantor and his Argentinian-born son in his play Requiem para unviernes a la noche (1964). Mario Szichman (b. 1945) in his novels, Crónica falsa (1969) and A las 20:35 la señora entró a la inmortalidad (1981), depicted the odyssey of a Jewish family against the background of the Peronist era. David Vinas (b. 1929), Marcos Aguinis (b. 1935), Gerardo Mario Goloboff (b. 1939), Alicia Steimberg (b. 1933), and Marion Satz (b. 1944) were other writers of this new generation of Jewish intellectuals.
Although Argentina, because of the size of the community and the vigor of the cultural milieu, contained the largest nucleus of Jewish authors, there were a number of writers in other Latin American countries, such as the Peruvian novelist Isaac Goldemberg (b. 1945), who told the story of an eastern European Jewish immigrant in The Fragmented Life of Don Jacobo Lerner (1976). In Venezuela Isaac Chocrón (b. 1932), one of the country's most prominent playwrights, examined his Sephardi background in a novel, Rómpase en caso de incendio (1975).
Despite maintaining strong Zionist sympathies, Latin America's writers only occasionally set their works in Israel. In El caramelo descompuesto (1980), a novel by Ricardo Feierstein, a young Argentinian narrator looks critically at life on a kibbutz.
A non-Jewish Venezuelan poet, Vicente Gerbasi (1913–1992), who was his country's ambassador to Israel (1960–68), included poems on Jerusalem and its Jewish inhabitants in his verse collection Poesiás de viaje (1968).
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict from a pro-Arab point of view was dealt with by the well known Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes, in his La cabeza de la hidra (1978; "The Hydra Head," 1978).
Latin American Jewish literature developed specifically in the 1970s and 1980s, and can be defined as the treatment of Jewish values in two languages – Spanish and Portuguese, as conceived and spoken in Latin America; and more particularly, as the way in which these languages have left their mark on Latin American Jewry, through those authors who use them as their vehicle.
In other words, the Jewish literature of Latin America exploits the possibilities of expression offered by the Portuguese and Spanish languages to translate, both at the personal and the collective level, the way in which basic Jewish values are experienced and interpreted in the framework of living conditions in this part of the world. In the words of literary critic Saul Sonowski, "Jewish literature in Latin America is not built exclusively on the basis of motifs which can easily be identified as Jewish, but as a function of the relationship of these motifs to concrete realities which are in a process of development and transformation: the realities of the Latin American societies in which they must evolve." What he means basically is that the Latin American Jewish writers are an inseparable part of their respective national literatures. Their acknowledgment of their Jewishness resides in their perception of themselves as Uruguayan, Brazilian, Mexican, Venezuelan, Chilean, or Argentine writers whose works and thought integrally include a Jewish thematic variation, which may be more or less frequent, more or less intense, and can be formulated and reelaborated in an infinite variety of ways. The Jewish variation cannot be isolated from the totality which gives it meaning, nor placed in a hierarchy to the detriment of the totality. Nevertheless, Latin American Jewish writers, in order to consolidate their respective identities as Latin American writers, also have to take their positions as Jews. In their work, Jewish and Latin American themes, far from constituting an irreconcilable antithesis, as is often alleged by explicitly antisemitic and implicitly discriminatory theses, have become strongly complementary and inseparable.
For many years, in the Latin American cultural arena, the need for an alternative was solicited equally zealously by both the nationalist right and the Marxist-Leninist left: strictly specific characteristics, such as those implicit to the Jewish condition, were to be merged into the national identity (right) or the international proletariat identity (left). Considered "foreign" by the former and "reactionary" by the latter until well into the 1970s, Judaism seemed to have no future as a variation in the composite profile of the Latin American writer. However, the situation began to change in the 1970s. Government terrorism, which raged in every corner of the continent, but with an especially bloody genocide in the southern tip of Latin America, gave rise to a new phenomenon in the region – a diaspora. This bitter experience strongly paralleled Jewish memories.
Discrimination, censorship, persecution, torture, imprisonment, and death were practiced with systematic tenacity by the successive dictatorships, especially against anyone daring to challenge the regime in force; fearing for their lives, many fled their country or even the continent. Jewish writers naturally drew parallels between past and present. At the same time, the seeds of today's Communist crisis were already present. Against this background, the meaning of Judaism, as a constituent element of the personal and historic identity of so many writers, underwent an intense process of redefinition, inspired not only by the suffering but also by its dialectic complement – the spirit of struggle, the capacity to confront adversity. Judaism was beginning to be seen as a determined demand for pluralism, for democratic ideals, for a thirst for dialogue, in open opposition to dogmatism and contempt for differentness. Beyond its possible adherence to theological arguments and religious options of one kind or another, Judaism was conceived, by contemporary Latin American writers, as a moving metaphor of their own experience, and was thus ultimately acknowledged as an inalienable part of an individual identity.
"In the countries of Latin America, which have experienced a repression unprecedented in their history, survival – perhaps the basic motif of all Jewish literature – has obviously played a major role" (Saul Sosnowski). And "it is under identical circumstances that some Jewish motifs have become precision instruments in interpreting a reality that centuries of persecution and exile have imprinted in the cultural tradition of the historic Jew" (Saul Sosnowski).
In addition to the decisive theme of survival, other fundamental themes began to appear in poetry, fiction, and drama. Man's dialogue with God, with its innumerable variations, the sufferings imposed by prejudice and intolerance, the intensity of nostalgia, exile and its indelible shadow, the meaning of death, the value of memory, mysticism, the warmth of family life, the immigrant origin, the Jewish holidays and history, the unexpected recording of one's own life as an "immigrant," and the presence and ethical and even esthetic weight of tradition, all to a great extent shape the repertory of themes which, in numerous forms, run through Latin American Jewish literature. And just as European or North American Jewish literature, for instance, have distinctive traits, specific only to a country or a continent, so Latin American Jewish literature has its own, unique characteristics. Its treatment of proverbially Jewish questions has an unmistakably Latin American emphasis, in that the Jewish models are presented through the subjective, social, and historic experience of the countries of Latin America, with their specific conflicts, resources, and conditions. The Jewish statement is made through the Spanish and Portuguese languages, with their own cultural imprint, and thereby receives a specific bias – accorded by the distinctive intonation of the language in every country and region where it is spoken. This intonation is not only that of the language's rhythm, its euphony, but also that of its semantic weave, which, in each locality, and in each consciousness, links the repertoire of resources offered by the language to its users, giving birth to that fertile "hybrid" condition noted by writer Ricardo Feierstein; and to the theme which, among so many other nationalities, both incorporates the Jewish element in, and separates it from, the Bolivian, Peruvian, Colombian, or Cuban element and elegantly frames a Jewish individuality which, while obviously related to others, is not one of them. This "hybridism" is simply the permanent interweaving of two originally separate traditions – the Jewish and Latin American, which, through the meeting of circumstances, ultimately shaped a new expression. The value and quality of this possibility of expression characterizes Latin American Jewish literature.
In other words, Spanish and Portuguese are not the languages into which the universal nature of Judaism is translated, but the means through which it is constituted and conceived in Latin America. Based in these languages, Jewish poetry, fiction, and drama, as well as essays and critical reviews, are seen as the highest grade of conceptual elaboration which Jewish experience has attained in Latin America. While Latin American Jews do not have to be aware of this in order to be what they are, it is no less true that this knowledge constitutes for them a privileged resource for a greater and better understanding of their identity.
Since the reestablishment of democratic institutions in the 1980s, in particular, Latin American Jewry has encountered a fertile terrain in which to shape itself, demonstrating that a complete manifestation of the universality of Jewish values is possible only when inspired by a concrete historic circumstance. It is in the light of their experience as Latin Americans that the validity of the meaning of Jewishness can be projected in the contemporary world. Every literary work, beyond its value as a comparative model, expresses that moment of luminous encounter between past and present which imbues the experience it describes, the statement it makes, with both an individual, specific, and even regional nuance, and an archetypal, metaphoric, and revealing dimension whose symbolic stature is universal. In this way the yesterday of previous generations who sustained, enjoyed, and suffered the Jewish condition, becomes the today shaped by our circumstances, which are no less worrying or fascinating than those of the past. Through looking at the past one learns to see those who observe from the present; observations of the present bring to the acknowledgment of the validity of this millennia-old message. Latin American Jewish literature proves this eloquently. It is one of the basic indications of Latin American Jewry's intense desire to attain self-understanding. Indeed, to a very great extent literary activity in the 1980s evidenced the resolute initiative and great persistency of this community in examining its condition. Among the events demonstrating this orientation should be noted: two encounters of Latin American Jewish writers held in Buenos Aires in 1986 and in 1988; the proliferation of poetry, fiction, and essays, which join together with remarkable elegance the double source of personal identity – Jewish and Latin American; the appearance of Noaj, the first Jewish literary review in Spanish and Portuguese edited in Israel; the creation, also in Israel, of a Jewish writers' association in both languages. All these proved decisive acts and showed the extent of Latin American Jewry's eagerness for self-exploration and self-expression. Certainly it is not by chance that all these developments were taking place at a time when the values of political democracy were being progressively restored. Democracy is the most propitious condition for the institution of pluralism; and Judaism, freed from the oppressive yoke placed upon it by totalitarian thinking, finds itself with an auspicious opportunity to say and affirm what it is, and to begin once again to question its own meaning.
[Santiago Ezequiel Kovadloff]
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