This poignant and richly textured memoir was originally written in Judeo-Spanish, the language of the Jews of the Ottoman Empire and of Marcel Cohen’s own childhood; it was later translated by the author himself into French. The book (which appears in this edition both in English and the Ladino original) is, writes Cohen, “more or less what my mind retains of the five centuries that my ancestors spent in Turkey.” A haunting journey into personal and collective memory, it is also a meditation on a dying language and in fact a dying way of life—that of the Sephardic Jews of Salonica, Istanbul, and other points east. In Search of a Lost Ladino includes a thoughtful introductory essay, “Three Degrees of Exile,” by translator Raphael Rubinstein, as well series of ink drawings by the well-known Spanish painter to whom Cohen addresses his letter.
Born in the Paris suburb of Asnières in 1937, MARCEL COHEN is the author of many books of short narrative prose in French. Several of his works have been translated into English, including Mirrorsand The Emperor Peacock Moth. He has also published a collection of interviews with Edmond Jabès,From the Desert to the Book. In 2002 the Académie Française awarded Cohen the Prix Roland de Jouvenel. He lives in Paris.
RAPHAEL RUBINSTEIN is a poet and art critic whose books include The Basement of the Café Rilke,Postcards from Alphaville, and Polychrome Profusion: Selected Art Criticism 1990 – 2002. He is a Senior Editor at Art in America, and in 2002, the French government presented him with the award of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He lives in New York City.
“Part meditation, part memoir, part historical chronicle, Marcel Cohen’s In Search of a Lost Ladino: Letter to Antonio Saura is above all an act of recovery…. Ladino becomes both other and necessity, the silenced yet indispensable instrument that makes recovery possible; in its fold and echoes, songs and limericks, curses and sayings, the cities of exile are illuminated.”
“Cohen describes the feeling of a man who is nearly driven mad by seeing how the language of his parents and his childhood is gradually losing its place in the world…. A considerable part of the book is cast in a dialogue between his languages, which gives rise to a tremendous sadness.”
“Cohen’s In Search of a Lost Ladino is a memoir that meditates on the possibility of a personal and historical recovery through the act of translation…. A unique combination of Judeo mysticism and faith in the unconscious motive fuels [the author’s] intense belief: ‘For me the imaginary is simply what we have forgotten.'”
The Brooklyn Rail
“A gem of a book…. Cohen captures the experience of the Sephardim, expelled from Spain and dispersed through the East … juxtaposing it with the death of the ancient language, Ladino, that animated their everyday lives. [A] beautifully crafted memoir.”
Jewish News of Greater Phoenix