<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
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The Sephardic Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943. A web companion to a new history.

Last Century offers readers a unique opportunity to enjoy the largely forgotten traditions of Monastir´s centuries-old Sephardic folklore.

The new history's collection of folksongs (kantigas), ballads (romances), folktales (konsejas), and proverbs (refranes) is one of the most varied ever published. The folklore is presented in the Judeo-Spanish and in English translations specially prepared by leading scholars for Last Century.

Eavesdropping on a lost culture

In Last Century´s 50-page appendix of Sephardic folklore, readers will seem to be listening in on conversations from a vanished world. These songs and stories were collected by researchers who visited Monastir in 1927 and 1930. The researchers sought out older people who grew up during the mid-19th century, before folk traditions weakened.

In the first lines of one kantiga, a mother and daughter argue about the proper way to pursue a husband,:

No maldige la mi madri, Do not curse, my mother,
No maldige sin razón. Do not curse without a reason.
Eye cuandu ere mose, When you were young,
Fizu amor cun mi siñor. You made love with my father.
Ya lu fizi la mi fije, So I did, my daughter,
Ya lu fizi cun tiempus, I did it over time,
Laz fijiques di agore The girls nowadays
No querin noviu gidió. Do not want a Jewish groom.
Cuandu salin a la puerte When they go out the door
In todus miren pur cuniser. They look to meet everyone.
In another song, a new mother is comforted and the birth of her new son is celebrated:
Oy qui muevi mezis, Oh, what nine months,
Pasatis d´istrichure. Of discomfort you have had.
Mus nasió un fiju A son was born
Di care di lune. His face like the moon.
Bive la paride, Long live the child´s mother,
Cun su criature. With her newborn.

Rare 15th century ballads

While the kantigas reveal the social customs and rituals of Sephardic life, the ballads or romances speak to the Sephardim´s attachment to their ancestral home: Spain.

In one romance, a battle is recounted:

Ríu verdi, ríu verdi, ríu verdi y amariyu, Green River, Green River, green and yellow,
mahu comu a lazeiti y pretu comu a la tinte! as smooth as oil and as black as ink!
In las tus tierres ajenes cayó gran cavayeríe; In your distant lands, many knights were killed;
cayerun duquis y condis y siñoris dun gran validu. dukes and counts and lords of great worth.
<i>Last Century</i> of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.

Last Century of a Sephardic Community - The Jews of Monastir, 1839-1943.
by Mark Cohen

LIST PRICE: $34.95


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