Page 117 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ROTH / JEWISH LITERATURE IN MEDIEVAL SPAIN
109
Joseph Ibn Zabara, nevertheless originated from Muslim Spain.
His work, “Book of delights,” is actually far less “delightful”
than any of the examples from Castile, however. Nevertheless,
because of its several translations, it remains the best known
of all medieval Hebrew fiction.22
Judah Ibn Shabbetai, who lived in Zaragoza and also in To­
ledo, wrote (1198-1225) his
Minhat Yehudah (Soneh nashim),
a
truly “delightful” work which holds together very well as a no­
vella. Characteristic of all such works are the hero and “antag­
onist,” all with fanciful or symbolic names. Judah ’s work focuses
not so much on “hatred” of women as on the “wiles,” or deceits
of women, a theme found already in
Sendebar
and even in Ibn
Zabara, but here developed to its highest level.23
Unfortunately the satirical nature of the work totally escaped
a certain “Yitshaq” (otherwise unknown), who took it all too
seriously and replied with his own
maqama,
“The Aid of Wom­
en.”
Judah al-Harizi, important also as a poet (d. before 1235),
made a fairly literal Hebrew translation of the Arabic
maqama
of al-Hariri, before embarking on his own effort,
Tahkemoni.
Something of a combination of travel lore, a history of poets,
and a literary work, it represents the most complex example
of the genre if not, perhaps, the most entertaining.24 It is in­
teresting to note that the author was also an accomplished schol­
ar, whose Hebrew translation of Maimonides’
Guide,
although
it was overshadowed by that of Judah Ibn Tibbon, is not without
merit.
Isaac Ibn Sahulah (ca. 1281 in Guadalajara) composed the
22. The more accessible o f
two
critical eds. by Israel Davidson is
Sefersha cashucim
(N.Y., 1914), with English intro. See now the book by that title by Yehudit
Dishon (Jerusalem, 1985), with important studies. There is an excellent Catalan
translation,
Llibre d ’ensenyaments delectables,
by Ignasi Gonzalez-Llubera (Barce­
lona, 1931); a very poor English one,
The Book o f Delights
by Moses Hadas (N.Y.,
1930); and a very good Castilian one,
Libro de los entreteniminetos,
by Marta
Forteza-Rey (Madrid, 1983).
23. See my “The ‘Wiles o f Women’ Motif in the Medieval Hebrew Literature
o f Spain,”
Hebrew Annual Review
2 (1978): 145-65, which analyzes this motif
and traces also some o f the sources (there on p. 153 “Alfonso VIII” should,
o f course, replace Alfonso X, an inexplicable error).
24. The text has been edited and translated into English by Victor E. Reichert
(Jerusalem, 1965-73), two vols. There is a Spanish translation,
Las asambleas
de los sabios,
by Carlos del Valle Rodriguez (Murcia, 1988).