.sig quoting Marcel Cohen, corrected

By: | Post date: November 18, 2009 | Comments: 6 Comments
Posted in categories: Personal

My listing of email signatures, from a simpler, Web 1.0 world, has often served as a conversation starter for my friend John Cowan, if I can judge from random googlings (first comment down). The listing includes the following citation of the French-born author Marcel Cohen writing in Judezmo:

No saves, Antonyo, lo ka es morirse una lingua. Es komo kedarse soliko en el silensyo kada diya ke el Dyo da.

I took the quotation from the Esperanto literary journal Literatura Foiro. I copied it from there and not from memory (I don’t have a memory for Judezmo); but it looks like whoever published it did mangle it from memory. Cohen’s book, In search of a lost Ladino: letter to Antonio Sauro, is a reflection on the death of both Sephardi Jewry in the Holocaust, and the Sephardic language. It is now available in a bilingual edition (link to the passage), and the passage is also cited (correctly) in a Spanish blog.

Karo Antonio,
Kyero eskrivirte en djudyo antes ke no keda nada del avlar de mis padres. No saves, Antonio, loke es morirse en su lingua. Es komo kedarse soliko en el silensyo kada dya ke Dyo da, komo ser sikileoso sin saver porke.
Lo ke te eskrivo, Antonio, es el poko d eke ma akodro despues de estos cinkos syekolos en Turkya. Yo naci en Asnieres, ke es una sivdeka cerka de Paris. Mi padre y mi madre dainda avlavan en franses ke era la lingua de todos los djudyos de Turkya en akel tyempo porke l`Alliance israelite universelle asi les embezo. Despues de este se foueron al Lycée de Galata Sarail en Stambol y es por esto ke tanto les plazya la Francia, ma en kaza nunka decharon de avlar djudyo y ansina es ke yine yo me embezi.
“Una kayda, una kresida”

[EDIT: Changed from “French-born Judezmo author: Cohen is an established author in French, and his use of Judezmo in 1985 was a one-off.]


  • John Cowan says:

    Yeah, brain fart.

    Someone asked me whether it wasn't unsafe to append such Arabic texts to my emails. I replied that I was from New Jersey, where the very public schools serve shoggoth meat for lunch, and lived in New York City, where the banks are going to foreclose on R'lyeh the next time it resurfaces.

  • opoudjis says:

    @John : Cohen translating Cohen certainly did things like that, but "komo ser sikileoso sin saver porke" is there…

    Here's a translation of John's latest .sig. Being of my time and place, I prefer thanatōi thanaton patēsas, from my own religious tradition…

  • John Cowan says:

    Not only that, but the sentence "You're sikelioso [sad], without knowing why" doesn't even exist in the Ladino version!

    This is yet another example of how to translate with vigor and permanent walnut-juice (and beguile the old pantaloons).

    In any case, I have added the corrected version to my .sig list. I am particularly pleased with the latest prior addition, so I will append it here:

    La mayyitan ma qadirun yatabaqqa sarmadi
    Fa idha yaji' al-shudhdhadh fa-l-maut qad yantahi.
         –Abdullah al-Hazred, Al-`Azif

  • opoudjis says:

    … Ah, I *thought* "Judeo" was an odd thing to call the language. Rubinstein was actually saying Djudio, a synonym of Judezmo (or Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish: see Wikipedia for more on the variant names.)

  • opoudjis says:

    And read the interview for why the French (and English) omit the "each day that God gives you" of the original Judezmo. Cohen in fluent literary French, translating himself, had a different persona from Cohen in halting half-remembered Judezmo. Fascinating stuff.

  • opoudjis says:

    And to save me the embarrassment of trying to translate Judezmo without even knowing Spanish, here's a translation of the opening sentence from an Australian radio review of the book, as read by the translator Raphael Rubinstein. (I'm transcribing from the audio; Cohen left some words deliberately untranslated in his French translation, and Rubinstein has done the same):

    "Dear Antonio. I'd like to write to you in Judeo, before the language of my ancestors is completely extinguished. You can't imagine, Antonio, what the death agony of a language is like. You seem to discover yourself alone, in silence [every day that God grants you]. You're sikelioso [sad], without knowing why. What I'm going to record here is more or less what my mind retains of the five centuries that my ancestors spent in Turkey. I was born in Asnieres, a suburb of Paris, and my parents were in their thirties when they came to live in France. They spoke French perfectly. At the time it was the language of all the Jews of the former Ottoman Empire. They learned it at an early age in the schools of the Alliance israelite universelle, then in Istanbul at the Lycée de Galata Sarail. How could they not have loved France. This didn't by any means stop them from speaking Judeo at home. And so it was that listening to them I was immersed in the language, without exactly speaking it myself."

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