Dec 07 2010

Queers and the Jews

by at 3:29 pm under Uncategorized

In order to prep for my Yankev Gordin paper, I’ve been doing some research on Yiddish literature. This led to Leo Wiener’s seminal work on The History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth-Century (1899). Professor of Slavic Languages at Harvard, Wiener was troubled by a tendency in langauge studies to overlook Yiddish as a legitimate language worthy of study. I’ve been taking lots and lots of notes on this text (a blog post on this is forthcoming), but I couldn’t help myself from posting about some exciting tangents this text has led me to. In his chapter on Jewish folklore, Wiener mentions Abramawitsch’s The Jewish Don Quixote, whose protagonist enters on a quest to find the Sambation River so that he can find the Lost Tribes of Israel (Wiener 31). Given my orthodox upbrining, any mention of the Sambation River gets me sort of excited. So I naturally looked to see what this text is about and I came across an article by Leah Garrett who says the following:

 n 1878, the renowned Jewish writer Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh published a Yiddish version1 of Don Quixote entitled The Travels of Benjamin the Third.2 In the novella, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are reconstituted as two small-town Jewish fools, who are traveling through Poland on their way to Israel. The novella mimics the structure, plot, and characters of Don Quixote.
     However, The Travels of Benjamin the Third pushes themes from Don Quixote to satiric extremes. For example, in The Travels everyone is as mad as the Jewish Don Quixote, Benjamin, and the relationship between him and Sancho Panza (Sendrel) is an homosexual marriage.

Source: From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 17.2 (1997): 94-105.
Copyright © 1997, The Cervantes Society of America

So this text is even weirder than I thought.  Jewish Don Quixote marries Jewish Sancho Panza? How queer! So now I’m wondering about prevalence of queerness in Yiddish writings. Okay, that’s all for now, but notice the image above. I must read this book.  It looks fabulous (plus, Babs is on the cover and I love my Babs).

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