Francophone Sephardic Fiction:Writing Migration, Diaspora, and Modernity approaches modern Sephardic literature in a comparative way to draw out similarities and differences among selected francophone novelists from various countries, with a focus on North Africa. The definition of Sepharad here is broader than just Spain: it embraces Jews whose ancestors had lived in North Africa for centuries, even before the arrival of Islam, and who still today trace their allegiance to ways of being Jewish that go back to Babylon, as do those whose ancestors spent a few hundred years in Iberia. The author traces the strong influence of oral storytelling on modern novelists of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and explores the idea of the portable homeland, as exile and migration engulfed the long-rooted Sephardic communities. The author also examines diaspora concepts, how modernity and post-modernity threatened traditional ways of life, and how humor and an active return into history for the novel have done more than mere nostalgia could to enliven the portable homeland of modern francophone Sephardic fiction.
Judith Roumani is founder and director of the Jewish Institute of Pitigliano.
Introduction: Migratory Writing and the Novel
Chapter 1: From Orality to Writing: Storytelling in Sephardic Literature
Chapter 2: The Portable Homeland: Ryvel and Koskas
Chapter 3: The End of Symbiosis: Sephardic Novelists and the Sudden Ruptures of History
Chapter 4: Migratory writing by Bensoussan (Algeria/France) , Bouganim (Morocco/Israel), Kayat (Tunisia/Sweden)
Chapter 5: Modernity and Beyond
Chapter 6: A Return into History
Judith Roumani has once again shown her skills as a perceptive researcher and reader in this fascinating book focusing on Sephardi-Mizrahi francophone texts. She contextualizes the work not only of internationally known figures like Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida and Albert Memmi, but also less familiar writers who merit recognition, such as Albert Bensoussan, Annie Fitoussi, Claude Kayat, and Nine Moati. The themes she elucidates will be appreciated by scholars and aficionados of the broad field of Sephardic Studies as well as diasporic and postcolonial studies.
Judith Roumani writes so elegantly and investigates her materials so thoroughly that her work comes out in mint condition. I am delighted and honored to endorse this book on Sephardic fiction presented within a broad cultural and multilingual context. This study is particularly valuable in that it brings the previously little-known field of modern Sephardic fiction in French to an English-speaking readership.
What is particular in Roumani's approach is, first, her premise of a shared 'Sephardic' identity over a wide geographical area, common not only to the Jews of the Old Ottoman Empire but also to the Jews of North Africa and the Muslim Near East, and second, that the saving factor for Sephardic authors has been to abandon the original languages of their cultural matrix (Ladino, Arabic) in favor of a totally external Western language, French. Exposure to French language and culture in the 19th century provided Sephardic writers and intellectuals with a very welcome gateway into the modern world and a literary culture of great prestige. Roumani's study will thus provide substantive weight to the notion that there is a solid body of literature that can be called 'francophone Sephardic.'
Migration, diaspora and nostalgic reflection on the vanished communal existence are themes of paramount importance in any approach to Jewish literature. Judith Roumani traverses them all to trace the modern history of Sephardic Jews. Rich and impressive in its comparatist scope and the depth of its analysis, this work is a wonderful addition to modern Sephardi and francophone studies and will be essential reading for a wide range of scholars engaged in these fields.