Viktor Levi’s Ha-Mayyim Ha-Marim ve Ha-Me’arerim o la Agua de la Sotah, an anticlerical Judeo-Spanish novel published in Constantinople in 1889
By uclhwis, on 22 September 2016
In the latter 19th century, fiction began to appear in Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, the habitual language of Jews in the Balkans, Asia Minor and Greece. The heyday of the Ladino novel was between 1908 and 1914, and in the 1920s.
Usually these novelettes were either ‘blood and thunder’, crime and adventure stories, or sentimental tales intended to appeal to women. A large proportion of them were translations or adaptations from popular novels in other languages, mostly French. Probably the greatest of the novelists was Elia Karmona, of Constantinople (1869-1932), one of whose novels I have transliterated from the text in the Rashi typeface in which Ladino was printed, and translated into English.
Another novelist, as well as a journalist, editor and, translator, was Viktor Levi of Constantinople (1865-1940). His novel, the subject of this seminar, is original, both in that it is not a translation and that it is a fiction on a biblical subject and caused considerable outrage and demands for its suppression. I shall discuss it in the context of the conflict between progressive journalists and the Chief Rabbinate of Constantinople.
Sarah Abrevaya Stein, Making Jews Modern; the Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).
Olga Borovaya, Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles-Lettres and Theater in the Late Ottoman Empire, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012).
Aron Rodrigue, ‘The Ottoman Diaspora; the Rise and Fall of Ladino Literary Culture’, in David Biale (ed.) Cultures of the Jews (New York: Schocken Books,2002), 863- 885.
Michael Alpert, ‘The Ladino Novel’, European Judaism (London: Leo Baeck College, 43,2  ), pp. 52-62.
Elia R. Karmona, La muz’er onesta (transliterated and translated as The Chaste Wife by Michael Alpert, Nottingham, Five Leaves, 2009)