Passion, Memory, and Identity

Passion, Memory, and Identity

Passion, Memory, and Identity

Passion, Memory, and Identity

Excerpt

Marjorie Agosín

Since one feels obliged to write, let it be without obscuring the space between the lines with words.

CLARICE LISPECTOR, THE FOREIGN LEGION

My great-grandmother Helena Broder Halpern used to silently descend the stairs from the second floor of her son Joseph's house in Santiago, Chile, every Friday at the time when the stars of the Southern Hemisphere assured us of the beauty and permanence of the firmament. In a Catholic country at the end of the world, my great- grandmother would cover her face and make the ancient gestures of Jewish women when they receive the splendor of the Sabbath. She would pray in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German. At first the maids stared at her, stupefied, then they would speak or hum some strange, always melodious words in the Mapuche tongue. They prayed next to her and recited the rites of other times and other ancestral backgrounds. I would look at my great-grandmother and rejoice because she had the semblance of happiness and memory. Perhaps this scene frames an early meditation on what it is to be a Jewish writer in Latin America. It is to be a type of hybrid of old traditions brought from the Sephardic . . .

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