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lluminating an obscure culture in Latin America

A new col­lec­tion of four­teen “artist’s books,” fea­turing cap­ti­vating poems and mag­nif­i­cent art­work, high­lights the rich cul­ture of Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in Latin America, thanks to the efforts of Stephen Sadow, pro­fessor of Spanish and Latin Amer­ican lit­er­a­ture at North­eastern University.

Sadow recently returned from Argentina, where he cohosted an exhibit of these books at the Museo Judio de Buenos Aires (the Jewish Museum of Buenos Aires).
In cre­ating the books, Sadow selected 14 poems, and then he and his Argen­tinian col­leagues, Perla Bajder and Irene Jaievsky, chose 14 Jewish artists from across Latin America. Each artist was asked to take one poem and create a unique piece of art based on his or her inter­pre­ta­tion of the poem. Hand­made in Buenos Aires, each book includes the poem in Spanish; an Eng­lish trans­la­tion of it by Sadow and his co-​​translator, J. Kates; the art­work; and bilin­gual biogra­phies of the poet and artist.

The poems deal with Jewish iden­tity, mys­ti­cism, Old Tes­ta­ment themes, the Holo­caust and the deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish com­mu­nity center in Argentina, among other related topics. The art­work fea­tures a wide spec­trum of tech­niques, from water­color to dig­ital images.

“The idea was to have a con­flu­ence of the poetry and art of that cul­ture,” Sadow said. “There would be a Jewish poem, and then another Jewish artist would under­stand it and reflect it in art. Not only did we want to see the art­work, but how that art­work emerges from the poetry.”

In June, Sadow show­cased the col­lec­tion at the Latin Amer­ican Jewish Studies Asso­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence in Ari­zona. He is now plan­ning an exhibit at Northeastern.
Sadow’s work involving Latin America Jewish cul­ture spans the last 30 years, and includes schol­arly arti­cles, lit­erary trans­la­tions, and trilin­gual (Spanish, Eng­lish, Por­tuguese) antholo­gies. His “King David’s Harp:  Auto­bi­o­graph­ical Essays by Jewish Latin Amer­ican Writers” was awarded the 1999 National Jewish Book Award.

“I want to dis­cover and pro­mote the work of a sub­cul­ture in Latin America that has been totally ignored by rest of the world, and is itself quite frag­mented,” said Sadow, who noted that there are an esti­mated 400,000 Jews living throughout Latin America.

Sadow recently com­pleted a 200-​​page “open source” anthology that brings together the work of 13 Latin Amer­ican Jewish poets from the 1960s to the present and includes his and Kates’ trans­la­tions of those poems into Spanish.  Selected pub­li­ca­tions, including this anthology, can be found in the North­eastern Library’s dig­ital archive.

“I want these poets to read each other’s poetry and the public to realize this kind of cul­tural work is being done throughout Latin America,” Sadow said.
View selected pub­li­ca­tions of Stephen Sadow in IRis, Northeastern’s dig­ital archive.

– by Matt Collette

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