Pérez Gay, José María. The Unfortunate Passion of Hermann Broch. Dr. Eduardo Jiménez, Translator. ISBN: 978-0-9796457-3-0. $22.95.
Having earned its author, José María Pérez Gay, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Arts and Sciences (first class), this acclaimed, concise biography focuses on novelist Hermann Broch's preoccupation with his Austrian-Jewish heritage and examines his obsession with human morality, social and moral decadence and mass psychology, specifically, in relation to the tragic historical events of the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast to Franz Kafka's worldwide fame, the effect that Broch (and his colleague Robert Musil) had on the literary world outside Central Europe has remained, until quite recently, rather unappreciated.
At the root of his profound literary achievement is his analytical clairvoyance concerning the crisis of values that would culminate in the ignominious catastrophes of the Second World War. In his trilogy, The Sleepwalkers, praised by Milan Kundera as "one of the greatest European novels," Broch illustrates the decay of values in German society, combining lyricism, essayism and naturalism in three distinct segments, beginning with the demise of the Prussian aristocracy and shifting to the moral bankruptcy of the bourgeoisie. The nadir is reached in the third volume as a nihilistic Zeitgeist emerges, devoid of any moral or ethical principles. The depth of his political critique and his modernist experimentation with form and content undoubtedly owe much to the influence of James Joyce. In The Death of Virgil, described by Thomas Mann as "one of the most extraordinary and profound experiments ever to have been undertaken with the flexible medium of the novel," Broch depicts the epic Roman poet's transformation of everything tangible into an inner, visionary, dream-like experience, as he faces the last hours of his life. The moribund poet, fatigued by the decadence of Roman civilization, carries on a discussion with Caesar Augustus: wherein the former, disenchanted with the efficacy of literature, calls for his work to be burned while the latter wishes it to be preserved for posterity, for it captures the legacy of the Empire.
An analogous quest for the 'holy' within a world of eroding values becomes the subject of another of Broch's outstanding novels, The Guiltless. In the midst of an era characterized by moral decadence, Hermann Broch wrestles with pessimism, though he clings to his belief in the capacity for human transcendence as the ultimate purpose of literary expression. Morally and spiritually speaking, he believes that literature must possess a restorative function. He also suggests that science alone is inadequate when faced with the task of grasping the world's totality. Moreover, he implies that perhaps the novelist is better equipped than the church and clergy to apprehend the metaphysical components of existence-for literature stands as the revelation of a mythic unity of being in the world, while men and women strive to come to terms with their mortality. This book introduces us to the gentle, generous soul of one of Europe's greatest modern novelists, contributing to the recuperation of his legacy for the benefit of all those who embrace the moral dimensions of literature. Susanne Kimball, Ph.D. The University of Texas at San Antonio.
José María Pérez Gay (February 15, 1944 – May 26, 2013) was a Mexican academic, writer, translator and diplomat. Some of his best known writings include "El imperio perdido," "La profecia de la memoria: ensayos alemanes" and "El principe y sus guerrilleros." He also founded Channel 22 (XEIMT-TV) and served as the television station's director. He later became an adviser to former presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Pérez Gay was born in 1944 in Mexico City. He received a degree in information science at Universidad Iberoamericana and a doctorate from Free University of Berlin in German literature. Perez Gay served as the Ambassador of Mexico to Portugal from 2001 to 2003. He had previously served as a cultural attache to Germany, Austria and France. In 1996, Perez Gay received the National Journalism Prize for Cultural Reporting. He was also the recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Austria Cross of Honour for Science and Art.
Eduardo Jiménez (Boston, 1976) is a graduate of Harvard College, and holds a doctorate in Spanish philology from St. Paul University in Madrid. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Modern Languages and Interdisciplinary Studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio
Other titles by and about the Sephardim:
Benforado, Sally. Bring Me More Stories: Tales of The Sephardim. ISBN: 0915745674 $22.95
In these short tales, author Benforado weaves together the oral history of a family of Sephardic Jews, from their close knit home in Turkey to their new lives in America. They are stories of a heritage that spans the globe, of centuries-old traditions transported to a different world, and of people who held tightly to the ways of their ancestors, who, like them, left their homes to settle in a strange new land. Following their exodus from Spain in 1492, Sephardic Jews were not allowed to remain on Spanish territories in North America, such as New Mexico and Colorado. Any Sephardim who chose not to leave, had to convert to Catholicism. Many chose to emigrate and leave Spain, their ancestral land forever.
Baca, Ray Michael. Brotherhood of the Light: A novel of the Penitentes and Crypto-Jews of New Mexico. 0-915745-66-6 $24.95
A novel about the un-easy and often misunderstood relationships of Crypto-Jews and Hispanos in New Mexico and their deep common roots in Spanish history--conquest and colonization--and religious faith and shared values.
Brotherhood of the Light follows the lives of three men from one family who lived in different centuries but were inexorably bound by the legacy of a cross that was brought from the Old World to the New. A relic that had come to prominence at the battle for Granada, when Spain united to expel the Moors. Descendants of Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition in Spain, the family joined Los Hermanos Penitentes. This secretive society of lay Catholic men in Northern New Mexico, who believe in emulating Christ’s Passion, his trial, his walk, and his suffering on the cross at the end of each Lenten season, was used for a dozen generations as a shield by the family to disguise their Crypto-Jewish identity while they struggled with the legacy bestowed upon them.
Gloria Golden Remnants of Crypto-Jews among Hispanic Americans. Edited by Roberto Cabello-Argandoña and Yasmeen Namazie. ISBN: 978-1482786941. $24.95.
Gloria Golden, an articulate and brilliant photo-anthropologist by vocation, set to uncover the Sephardic roots in the Southwest, which was always suspected to exist, as result of the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain in 1492. Many Jews went to Portugal and Turkey, others decided to join the expeditions to the New World, particularly New Spain, as Mexico was then called. Sociologists had anecdotal evidence of the Sephardim among the Mexican American population in Colorado and New Mexico.
Pérez Gay, Rafael. Heaven is Hard to Swallow=Paraísos duros de roer. Translated in to English by Dr. Eduardo Jiménez Mayo ISBN : 978-1-888205-29-9. $22.95..
A forlorn psychoanalyst; a cultural historian exploring the possibility of life after death; a middle-aged couple that schedules a rendezvous with a younger version of itself; a man who compensates for his phobia of death and dying with intense sadomasochistic practices; a writer who futilely explores the sexual habits and customs of Mexico City: These five short stories comprise the body of Heaven is Hard to Swallow (Paraísos duros de roer), the latest masterpiece of the phenomenal Mexican publisher, journalist and fiction writer, Rafael Pérez Gay. Here are the national commentaries of Rafael Pérez Gay on television.
Sánchez, Sandra Shwayder. The Secret of a Long Journey. Edited by Yasmeen Namazie and Roberto Cabello-Argandoña. ISBN 978-1480285033. $24.95.
The Secret of a Long Journey is the story of a cherished and dangerous secret, passed along from generation to generation through many lands and many perils: from Spain to Flanders across the ocean to Vera Cruz and up through the desert to what is now New Mexico. In magical realist style, this chronicle takes the Sephardic characters through the terrors of the Inquisition, shipwrecks and hurricanes, sandstorms and wars, lost loves and illness, all culminating when Lois Gold, a passionate court advocate for the disenfranchised, discovers the legacy of her lost grandfather.
“In The Secret of a Long Journey, Sánchez moves effortlessly through time and place with a mesmerizing plot. Generations come and go and each one propels the next. Her fascinating characters are solidly grounded in vivid natural or urban environments. Whether it is 16th century Flanders or 20th century Denver, you never lose the thread of the story, thanks to the author’s mastery of craft and her powerful imagination. The characters will lodge in your mind long after you’ve read the book . . .” Gloria DeVidas Kircheimer, author: Goodbye Evil Eye, and Amalie in Orbit.
Jacobo Sefamí Mourning for Papá: A Story of a Syrian-Jewish Family in Mexico. ISBN: 978-1-888205-31-2. $23.95.
Using the death of the father as a point of departure, the novel is divided into ten chapters, a structure that is particularly effective because the chapters correspond to the ten days that begin on the Jewish New Year and end on the Day of Pardon... Thus the mythic time of a millenarian religion such as Judaism is strategically juxtaposed to the recapturing of a family's memory that is both contemporary and unmistakably Mexican . . . The dialogues are tinged with Jewish humor -Jorge Schwartz
Each character lives simultaneously within three cultures -Jewish, Syrian, and Mexican-in a hybrid narration that produces fascinating mixtures -Lucía Guerra The representation of a state of mind throughout the novel is magnificent, particularly since he dares to portray a personal story as it pertains to both a collective consciousness and to the alienation that is caused by death... The blend of comedy and tragedy is maintained throughout the novel, in the best Jewish tradition, as established by Fernando de Rojas. I certainly enjoy the interweaving of languages and linguistic varieties. It is a pleasure to see such linguistic complexity sustained throughout the entire novel, without ever faltering. -José Kozer