Inspired by the discovery of a letter written by a Spanish woman under the pseudonym of Marcelina de Quinto to Isaac Molho, editor of the Tesoro de los judíos sefardíes (Treasure of the Sephardic Jews), this article focuses on the persistence of memory of Jewish ancestry within a prominent family of Spanish intellectuals in the 20th century—the Jardiels—and its reenactment in two different generational contexts. While the literary oeuvre of Enrique Jardiel Poncela, one of the most important comic writers of twentieth-century Spain and a staunch supporter of Franco, is tainted by a resolute antisemitic bent, his daughter Evangelina, a psychologist and author of fictional books and journalistic essays, converted to Judaism and strongly identified with the struggles of the State of Israel. Through the analysis of the biographical and intellectual trajectories of these two individuals, the article casts light upon the stereotypes, contradictions and ambivalent attitudes of Spanish intellectuals regarding Jews and Judaism.
A Tale in the Language of “My Mother Spain”
Carmen Pérez-Avello's Un muchacho sefardí
This article focuses on Carmen Pérez-Avello’s Un muchacho sefardí (A Sephardi Boy), a novel for young readers that that writer, who also happened to belong to Catholic religious order, published in Spain in 1965. The text’s multiple layers make it possible to examine contradictory meanings associated with Jewish and Sephardi themes in the decade that preceded the end of the Francoist dictatorship. On the one hand, Un muchacho sefardí stands out in a historical period in which Paloma Díaz-Más identifies an “absolute silence” with regard to Jewish characters and Jewish themes in Spanish literature. On the other hand, Pérez-Avello tapped into what could be called a “Philo-Sephardi catalogue” in order to craft the book. Un muchacho sefardí represents a unique opportunity to further understand a moment of gradual change and transition with regard to gender roles, the role of the church, and, of course, Spain’s relationship with Sephardi Jews.