The Beginnings of Ladino Literature: Moses Almosnino and His Readers

By Olga Borovaya | Go to book overview

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In the final section of chapter 1, I discussed the decline of Ladino literature at the turn of the seventeenth century caused by the disappearance of its audience, resulting from the end of the converso immigration and the economic crisis. In this chapter that covers the period between the 1600s and the 1860s, I will briefly outline the development of Ladino literature after a long hiatus, namely, its re-emergence for the benefit of a newly “discovered” audience, followed by the birth of another readership and modern forms of literary production. I will also show that contrary to common belief, Almosnino continued to be remembered and relevant in the eighteenth century. Since this is just a synopsis, I will briefly look at literary texts, dwelling mainly on their authors and addressees, as well as socioeconomic and political factors that had an impact on the trajectory of Ladino literature. Yet the first question I have to answer is why, in the early modern period, no vernacular literature emerged in Izmir, a Jewish community that did not suffer from the general economic downturn but rather, benefited from it.


The Jewish Community of Izmir

At the time when the Jewish communities of Salonica, Safed, and Manisa involved in textiles production experienced economic and cultural crisis, and Constantinople Jews had lost their prominence, a new community emerged in Izmir, a port city on the western Anatolian coast of the Aegean. For a long time, Izmir’s chief function had been supplying

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