The House of Jacob by Sylvie Courtine-Denamy

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In this touching and beautifully written book, Sylvie Courtine-Denamy traces her family's exile after their expulsion in 1492 at the time of Spanish unification. Their journey leads her to the exotic ports of Salonika, Constantinople, Bayonne, and Varna, to the cosmopolitan centers of Vienna and Paris, to America and Israel, and to Auschwitz. As she notes, while place and time separate us from those we love or never knew, something continues to link us. For Courtine-Denamy this "something" is, in part, language—the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) that is still spoken, whether on the banks of the Danube, on the Aegean Sea, or along the quays of the Seine. This powerful and moving history of one woman's family will strike a chord with those who have experienced exile and displacement. Julia Kristeva's foreword, which describes the book as being like a "refreshing spring shower," unearths a political intention in this carefully crafted story. One of the undercurrents in The House of Jacob, she notes, seems to be an implied criticism of the language policies of the State of Israel, in particular the imposition of the "sacred" language of Hebrew as a medium of everyday exchange, of domesticity, and of intimacy. Courtine-Denamy presents Sephardic culture as a counterpoint to the perceived prevalence of Ashkenazi culture in forming Jewish identity.

About Sylvie Courtine-Denamy

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Sylvie Courtine-Denamy is Associate Researcher at the Centre des Religions du Livre, at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. She is the author of Three Women in Dark Times: Edith Stein, Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil, also from Cornell.
Published January 1, 2003 by DAVID PAUL. 176 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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The author of this intimate history of a Sephardic Jewish family, an associate researcher at Centre des Religions du Livre at France's prestigious Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, was raised by nonobservant parents (as a schoolgirl, she insolently declared to her rabbi-teacher, "At our place we ...

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ForeWord Reviews

the bathtub of my mother, the last-born and most spoiled, that you put on the balcony to warm in the sun.” She sometimes writes as if addressing family members in person, as when recounting the life and death of her second cousins who were deported to Auschwitz and later killed there, she asks:...

Dec 16 2003 | Read Full Review of The House of Jacob

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