English Summaries vol. 69 (2020)

Lexicographical Criteria and Encyclopaedic Information in the Glossary of the Dialecto judeo-hispano-marroquí o hakitía by Jose Benoliel

Fernández Martín, Elisabeth


The book Dialecto judeo-hispano-marroquí o hakitía (1926-1952) by José Benoliel is the first and most outstanding example of North African Sephardic lexicography. Its final section includes a glossary containing almost a hundred pages, where many words from the Romance, Hebrew and Arabic heritage are collected. This glossary is not simply a bilingual repertoire of equivalences between Haketia and Spanish, but also contains complementary information about the uses and values of some words, cultural data and phraseological expressions. Although the glossary starts with the grammatical method, it exceeds any kind of descriptive study. While it may seem like a simple, short work employing a differential approach, it offers much more.

This article specifies the lexicographic criteria that Benoliel followed to determine his lexical definition strategies and analyses the complementary information that appears in the vocabulary. This detailed analysis demonstrates how all the information in the work was arranged, namely the semantic, encyclopaedic and expressive content. Additionally, the study highlights and compiles a large amount of the phraseology dispersed throughout the glossary entries.

The analysis examines both the macrostructure and microstructure of the glossary. Thus, on the one hand, it analyses the types of words compiled, the lemmatization process followed by Benoliel and the etymological origin of the vocabulary. On the other hand, the elements included in the entries are also studied in detail: the etymological and grammatical marks, the variants (and internal or external cross-references), the classes of definition used, the examples, the phraseology, as well as ideas about the use of a word and the encyclopaedic and cultural information offered, with these aspects playing a particularly prominent role. In some cases, Benoliel uses parenthetical glosses to clarify certain words related to Hebrew or Jewish celebrations, as is common in Sephardic lexicography. All this supplementary information, moreover, shows that Benoliel was not expressly limiting himself to an expert audience.

The glossary is generally characterized by its heterogeneity. This is manifested in the use of elements of different nature, such as lemmas (plural forms, particles, double or extended lemmas, phrases, and fixed expressions). The existence of cross-references – introduced by the abbreviations véase [‘see’] or confróntese [‘confer’] – is also verified. These cross-references are made either in cases of word families or with other forms used in the definitions. The most common class of definitions is equivalence, but periphrastic, hybrid, referential – introduced by acción de [‘action of’] or efecto de [‘effect of’], cualidad de [‘quality of’] or el resultado de [‘result of’] – and improper or functional definitions are also included, among which the most notable are the encyclopaedic definitions, the definitions that provide information about linguistic uses (for example, the linguistic register or diachronic issues) and, finally, the definitions that include different social and cultural data. The last of these groups contains anecdotes and curiosities about the Sephardic people and, especially, about the daily life of the North African Sephardim.

Thanks to the analysis carried out, more than half a thousand expressions were extracted from the lexicographic entries. This rich and abundant phraseological information is very heterogeneous (i.e., collocations, idioms, proverbs, etc.). Of the group, more than 70 per cent of the constructions are formed from Hebrew and Arabic elements, demonstrating a clear focus on the linguistic origin of Haketia.

In short, the glossary of Dialecto judeo-hispano-marroquí o hakitía is highly informative about the linguistic and cultural nature of this variety of Judeo-Spanish. Although the glossary is far from uniform and balanced, Benoliel’s lexicographical task must be valued for its historical-scientific and personal context. The book appeared at a time when dialect studies were expanding. It was also the heyday of Spain’s Centre for Historical Studies (Centro de Estudios Históricos, 1910-1939) and the major initiatives promoted by the institute, such as the publication of Romancero Hispánico. As a pioneering lexicographical work, the glossary offers a lot of interesting material, although it lacks the systematicity that a dictionary might have. Furthermore, this book was written during its author’s advancing years, while he was witnessing the decline of his vernacular language, a circumstance that clearly shaped the book.

The Xuetes/Chuetas in Three Spanish Novels: The Dead Command (V. Blasco Ibáñez), School of the Sun (A.M. Matute) and Dins el darrer blau (C. Riera)

Holgado Cristeto, Belén

This article analyses the image of the Chueta in three Spanish novels from three different eras: The Dead Command (Los muertos mandan, 1908) by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, School of the Sun (Primera Memoria, 1959) by Ana Mª Matute and Dins el darrer blau (En el último azul, 1994) by Carme Riera, not yet translated into English. These three novels and authors were chosen because they reflect the mentality of the time in which the works were written in addition to an evolution in the ideology.

The article does not delve into history or anthropology, but rather takes the position of a reader encountering the portrayal of certain literary characters who, in turn, reflect the thoughts of the author who created them. The description of a character draws on both the apparent and the hidden – or the unconscious in Freudian terms – which moves the novelist to define the character using certain words. The result is a double perspective: that of the writer describing the character and that of the reader perceiving him or her.

The article is divided into three different sections. The first section explains who the Chueta are, where their name comes from, the historical cause for the discrimination against them and their exceptional nature as a group. It also looks at the specific geographical context of the Island of Mallorca, the economic role performed by this group throughout the history of the island, as well as what has differentiated them from other Jewish converts on the Iberian Peninsula.

One striking issue that emerges in the analysis is that the prejudice that has extended to the present day is not due to the fact that the Chuetas are descendants of Jews, but because they are Chuetas. This, in turn, harks back to the events of the seventeenth century and the infamous autos-da-fé, masterfully described by Carme Riera in her novel En el ultimo azul (Dins el darer blau).

The best way to understand the unique circumstances depicted in the works is to read the three novels in a particular order: En el último azul, which takes places in the 17th century, followed by Los muertos mandan, whose plot unfolds at the beginning of the 20th century and, finally, Primera memoria, which takes place during the Spanish Civil War.

After a brief summary of the plot of each novel, the second section analyses the descriptions and adjectives used for the characters in them, grouping these elements according to their most outstanding characteristics. The third and final section brings the novelists face to face with their characters.

The article concludes that even today, certain prejudices against the so-called ‘fifteen Chueta surnames’ continue, but that these stereotypes and biases have been slightly mitigated by the mass arrival of foreign tourists to the island.

Facing a Dark Horizon: Alfred Döblin in the Quest for a New Judea

Maeding, Linda


In the 1920s, with anti-Semitism on the rise in Germany, Alfred Döblin (1878-1957), author and canonical representative of Weimar Modernism, lost faith in the assimilationist paradigm that had ruled Jewish emancipation. While exiled in France, he became involved with the neo-territorialist movement of the 1930s in its search for non-European territories for the Jewish diaspora to colonize outside Palestine. This article traces the exile’s positions concerning neo-territorialism – which is largely unknown in the Spanish-speaking world – his colonial objectives, and his search for a ‘complete renewal’ of Judaism as reflected and transformed into literature in his novel trilogy Amazonas (1937). The analysis of his Jewish writings explores the nexus between an acute consciousness of crisis and the imagination of a redeemed form of community.

Döblin’s commitment to the movement and its German branch Freiland was part of his general long-held concern for the collective dimension of human beings and, thus, for the foundations of community. Between his avant-garde writing (of which the best known is his novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1929) and his literary work written in exile lies an identifiable period in the author’s life marked by a very peculiar activism. The article here does not deal with this period as a historical curiosity, which in any case has become obsolete due to the course of events. Rather, Döblin’s essays, written when grave historical threats were on the horizon, still speak to us as they address the difficulties of maintaining the identity of minority groups in the heart of the nation. My aim is to show the specific character of Döblin’s approach, which devised proposals – both imaginative and desperate – for a situation that would later lead to the Holocaust.

The colonial project Döblin had in mind is detached from any national or imperial aspirations: the idea of a territory for the Jews, at a distance from Western countries, that would defend their collective integrity in the face of a hostile world. Neo-territorialism, with the cosmopolitan Isaac Nachman Steinberg at its head, did not endeavour to emulate the structure of a Western nation-state. Rather, it sought the autonomous administration of the Jews and their collective and, above all, autonomous existence in a defined territory, within an existing state.

Döblin, maintaining his distance from political Zionism, connected these demands with the quest for the renewal of Western Judaism. His commitment was undoubtedly part of a search for spiritual and intellectual guidance that characterized the author, with his strong leanings towards speculative and mystical theories about nature and human beings (embodied, for example, in his epic novel Manas, 1927).

The fundamental writings on the problems affecting the Jews are compiled in two volumes, Jüdische Erneuerung (1933) and Flucht und Sammlung des Judenvolks (1935), which represent an evolution in Döblin’s thinking conditioned by historical developments. In the first text, he takes the view that a central, international Jewish organization would provide protection against persecution, along with settlement in sparsely populated countries. In the second volume, on the other hand, he seems to view the colonization of Palestine as more historically appropriate than any territorialist alternative, although he still maintains – albeit with many doubts – that the territorial question should be submitted to the renewal project. In these lines, Döblin shows the characteristic tension of an approach that oscillates between a recognition of reality and more imaginative thinking.

Even before neo-territorialist expectations were frustrated and prospects for the future darkened even further, Döblin gave his writings a literary turn, transitioning from political activism to the realm of fiction. From a postcolonial perspective, it is rather striking to articulate a colonial project within the framework of a utopian discourse. But this is what Döblin attempted to do with Amazonas, after he left his militancy behind. Although the Jewish cause is not named, the links between neo-territorialist writings and his representation of the Jesuit settlements in the novel are manifest and have been the subject of recent studies. Döblin’s novel takes as its basis the Christianization carried out by the Jesuit order in South America beginning in 1549, when the religious order was granted only sparsely populated marginal areas, and a growing disconnection from the society around them took place.

Döblin’s reading of the Jesuit reducciones is not moved by historical truth, but shows a clear interest in the fate of the Jewish diaspora reflected in the Jesuit project and its failure. Here, the Jesuit mission is not perceived as a partial system of colonialism, but as its other: Döblin speaks of these settlements as ‘encapsulations’ in an adverse environment.

To summarize, the colonization of non-European territories as proposed in his essays and fictionalized in Amazonas was the only way for Döblin to achieve his aims: to undo the diaspora, to stop dispersion, to reconstitute a collective identity. It is what he calls the second emancipation of the Jews after the first one, carried out through assimilation, had failed. Still, for the author, territory is no sacred ground: ‘Above the territory we value the people! We must not turn the territory into a fetish’ (A. Döblin, Schriften zu jüdischen Fragen. 2015:179).

Judah ibn Shabbetai’s Divrei ha-Allah veha-Niddui (Words of Curse and Excommunication): Critical Edition and Spanish Translation

Salvatierra Ossorio, Aurora


Judah ibn Shabbetai, a Jewish author who was born in Christian Spain sometime around 1168 and died around 1225, is known in the history of Hebrew literature for his work Minḥat Yehudah Sone ha-Nashim (The Offering of Yehudah the Misogynist), a very widely disseminated text throughout the Middle Ages. However, Ibn Shabbetai also wrote Milḥemet ha-Ḥokhmah ve-ha-Osher (The Battle between Wisdom and Wealth), a highly popular debate of the era, and Divrei ha-Alah ve-ha-Niddui (Words of Curse and Excommunication), his least well-known work.

The leitmotif of this short text is the narrator’s violent attack against five members of the community (qahal) of Zaragoza: Abraham ben Shemuel Lobel (a scribe), Abraham Shelomoh Lobel (possibly the prayer leader), Yitzḥak ben Yosef Benvenist or בנבושת, Shelomoh גורגולוט or גורגוליט (a tax collector) and Meir ben Shemuel אלגרננושי or אלגרנטשי. The text focuses on the (bad) behaviour engaged in by these characters, against whom the ire of a first-person narrator is directed. What they did (publicly burn a book he wrote and expel him from the aljama), what they are (a sum of sins and vices) and what he wishes for them (every imaginable woe in this life and the next) constitute and structure the tale.

The story adopts a literary form that follows the style of the maqama, that is, rhymed prose with interspersed poems. The author uses this expressive vehicle to construct a text in which the narrator presents, one by one, each man who harmed him, associating them with the most serious crimes and sins, to then excommunicate and curse them in this life and after their deaths. To this end, he uses a performative language of extreme violence, and the reader is faced with a game where reality and fiction are interwoven with intended ambiguity.

Divrei ha-Alah ve-ha-Niddui is only extant in two manuscripts. The sole edition available to date was published in 1909 by Israel Davidson using Ms. Can. Or 29, held in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Thanks to the existence of a second manuscript (New York-Jewish Theological Seminary, Ms. 5522) – in combination with growing interest in the work of Ibn Shabbetai – I have prepared a new edition that takes both manuscripts into account. I chose the Oxford-Bodleian manuscript as the base text without additions or any corrections of supposed copyist errors, and I note the variants with respect to the New York-Jewish Theological Seminary, Ms. 5522.

The resulting edition, which is accompanied by a description of the manuscripts and a translation into Spanish with references and contextual notes, provides easier access to Divrei ha-Alah ve-ha-Niddui, making it possible to resolve some reading difficulties and presenting interesting variants between the two preserved manuscripts that – as, for instance, in the case of the names of the rivals – provide new interpretive possibilities.

A Critical Approach to the Abraham Cycle in Recent Hispanic-American Literature

Seijas de los Ríos-Zarzosa, Guadalupe


The Bible, a text read and commented on incessantly over the centuries, has served as a source of inspiration for a plethora of artistic expressions. Biblical passages, themes and characters have been the object of a dynamic process of interpretation and representation in literature, music, the visual arts and films. The reception of these creations must, therefore, be understood as a process in continuous progress, and its advancement must take all prior understanding as a starting point.

Within this tradition of the re-interpretation of biblical texts, the researcher faces the task of describing a creative process that combines tradition and innovation, as well as the use, impact and influence of biblical motifs and characters, since the cultural context of each age influences the way in which the Bible is read and understood. This type of research forms an essential part of scholarly work on the reception of the Bible and, particularly, in the field of Cultural Biblical Studies.

From this point of view, this article analyses the retelling of the Abraham Cycle in the novel Sara (2015), focusing on three aspects: the construction of the characters, the role of the narrator and the use of intertextuality. Sergio Ramírez, the author, is a well- known politician and writer from Guatemala. For him, the Bible is a text that he knows well and has read since childhood. Because of their brevity, many biblical stories are only slightly developed and they thus offer readers and writers the chance to imagine or write what is not said.

The author identifies with the character of Sara, with whom he shares the traits of nonconformity, a critical approach to the world and a sense of humour. From a contemporary feminist perspective, the character of Sara relives the main events of her life and interprets them in a very different way from that of her husband. Sara is a woman of action, who criticizes the status quo and demands spaces of freedom. At the same time, as a woman, Sara needs to express her feelings.

Abraham, on the other hand, is a passive, conformist and little-determined man who does not dare to disobey God. Ramírez builds an enigmatic and incomprehensible God, with whom it is very difficult to establish a personal relationship. Sara calls him ‘El Mago’ (The Magician) because he can do wonders and because she knows that he protects Abraham and his family.

In his novel, Sergio Ramírez also develops the identities of minor characters such as Lot, Lot’s wife, Edith, and their daughters. The writer particularly develops the literary character of Lot’s wife, of whom the Bible only says that she became a pillar of salt by looking back at Sodom (Gn 19:26). In the book, Edith becomes a sensible and intelligent woman, who is dissatisfied with her marriage. Sara and Edith share a deep friendship, which contrasts with the rivalry commonly portrayed between women in patriarchal tales as motivated by the desire to be the mother of men. The author also includes a new character in Abraham’s cycle: ‘El Tuerto’ (The One-Eyed Man), who is Satan himself as he appears at the beginning of the Book of Job. This story is based on a rabbinic tradition that relates two biblical episodes in which a righteous man is put to the test: Job, on the one hand, and Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac (Gn 22). A special harmony is established between ‘El Tuerto’ and Sara that is revealed in the retelling of chapters 19 and 22 of Genesis.

On the other hand, the narrator merges with the author, not only narrating events, but interpreting the stories with their own critical assessment. To do this, the narrator establishes a dialogue with the reader, leaving open questions and presenting problems and ambiguities in the text. In this way, reality and interpretation merge into a single discourse.

The element of intertextuality is equally important in this work. Sergio Ramírez employs the literary device as a strategy to give dynamism to the story and he does so in a very personal way, by changing the order of the biblical passages and including his own opinion about them. The reader is required to deconstruct the episodes, identify them and put them in the right order.

In summary, the writer creates a fresh, spontaneous and current story in which the reader feels like a participant in the events. Ramírez rewrites the story of Abraham from his personal reality, identifying himself with Sara, the protagonist. The result is that Abraham’s wife acquires a greater presence in the stories than her husband, and the social roles assigned to each of them are reversed. This retelling also draws attention to the characters’ feelings and the need to make them present through words, in both dialogues and internal monologues.

The novel takes as its starting point the context of the author – the 21st century sneaks into the story of the events and how Sara interprets them – to go back to the past of the biblical story. The past tense of the biblical narrative and the present tense of the author are combined to offer a new interpretation based on a contemporary mentality that questions divinity and emphasizes the predominance of reason and feminism. Through the narrator, the author questions the reader and creates an intriguing text between tradition and innovation. From the point of view of a woman, Ramirez recreates, transforms and invents the biblical texts, showing that the Bible is still an active creator of culture.