The House of Jacob

Hardback
In this touching and beautifully written book, Sylvie Courtine-Denamy traces her family's exile after their expulsion in 1492 at the time of Spanish unification. Their journey leads her to the exotic ports of Salonika, Constantinople, Bayonne, and Varna, to the cosmopolitan centers of Vienna and Paris, to America and Israel, and to Auschwitz. As she notes, while place and time separate us from those we love or never knew, something continues to link us. For Courtine-Denamy this something is, in part, language the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) that is still spoken, whether on the banks of the Danube, on the Aegean Sea, or along the quays of the Seine. This powerful and moving history of one woman's family will strike a chord with those who have experienced exile and displacement. Julia Kristeva's foreword, which describes the book as being like a refreshing spring shower, unearths a political intention in this carefully crafted story. One of the undercurrents in The House of Jacob, she notes, seems to be an implied criticism of the language policies of the State of Israel, in particular the imposition of the sacred language of Hebrew as a medium of everyday exchange, of domesticity, and of intimacy. Courtine-Denamy presents Sephardic culture as a counterpoint to the perceived prevalence of Ashkenazi culture in forming Jewish identity.