VITERBO UNIVERSITY | SPRING 2014 | VOLUME 78

TOUCHSTONE

LITERATURE

R. ABRAHAM SABA OF SPAIN, IN PORTUGAL, 1497


Jennifer Barber,

translation by

Jesús Jambrina



Now Portugal too
has changed.

In Guimares,
the town crier said
all books and phylacteries
must be turned over
at the Lisbon synagogue
on pain of death.

We listened,
I stood trembling.

Before we reached the city, I
buried my manuscripts
-last memories of Spain-
under the roots
of an olive tree.

This morning, a man
they beat with straps
for not letting go
of a book of prayers

was kicked to the ground
and taken. Here
in the courtyard
of the great synagogue,
none of us knows what's next.

Ahora también Portugal
ha cambiado.

En Guimarães,
el pregonero dijo
que todos los libros y las filacterias
tenían que entregarse
en la sinagoga de Lisboa
so pena de muerte.

Escuchamos,
y me quedé temblando.

Antes de llegar a la ciudad,
enterré los manuscritos –
mis últimas memorias de España-
bajo las raíces
de un olivo.

Esta mañana, un hombre
al que habían golpeado
con una correa
por no entregar
un libro de oraciones

fue pateado en el suelo
y llevado a la cárcel.
Aquí, en el patio
de la sinagoga mayor,
ninguno de nosotros sabe
qué pasará después.

*Abraham Saba (1440-1508): Jewish scholar from Spain. He lived and taught in Zamora, Spain, from where he left for Portugal in 1492. His children were taken away from him and forced to Catholicism in 1496. Saba left Portugal for Fez, Morocco, and later Fez for Verona, Italy, where he died. In the last ten years of his life, Saba rewrote all his books previously written in Spain.