Luisa Basevi

Luisa Basevi

XXXVIII cycle

Curriculum: Judaism

Tutor: Raffaele Esposito (Università di Napoli L’Orientale)

The focus of my research  will be the novel Ahavat Tzion, the first novel written in Hebrew (Biblical Hebrew) by Avraham Mapu.

 Published in 1853 in Vilna, Lithuania, the novel was an immediate success with the public and appeared in fifteen separate editions. It was also translated into Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Judeo-Persian, Arabic, German, French and English.

The author of the novel, Avraham Mapu (1808-1867), a Lithuanian, was an exponent of the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, a current born at the end of the 18th century in Berlin and moved to Eastern Europe, where it developed further, marking a decisive transformation in the cultural history of Judaism.

As far as the work is concerned, we are faced with a novel or historical drama, set in the Israel of 700 B.C.E., in the time of the Prophet Isaiah, who is quoted extensively in the novel.

The vicissitudes of the multiple fictional characters intertwine following the rhythm of historical events.

The language chosen for the novel was Biblical Hebrew with the use of techniques such as Shibutz (embedding) of words or expressions from the Tanakhic text, adapted to the narrative needs.

The use of the language of the Tanakh was one of the main points of the project of the maskilim (exponents of the Haskalah), who identified the purity of the language as one of the essential elements of the cultural renaissance of Judaism. Equally, the historical setting and the meticulous description of the nature of Israel restored to the reader the beauty and glorious times of the people.

A product of a European drive to create a national memory and identity, the historical novel responded to Mapu’s need to outline a renewed Jewish epic in the Land of Israel.

The success of the novel was enormous and influenced entire generations of young people, who saw in its protagonists, Tamar and Amnon, the symbol of a love, inextricably linked to the love for Israel.