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Teboul sees Exile as a way to strengthen Jewish Identity


"Unlike Jabès, Victor Teboul, a French Canadian writer, sees exile not as a state of suffering but as a chance to strengthen Jewish identity. Teboul was born in Alexandria and left Egypt in 1956. He immigrated to Canada in 1963 when he was in his 20s. He has not written a lot but he has produced two remarkable novels Que Dieu vous garde de l’homme silencieux quand il se met soudain à parler and La lente découverte de l’étrangeté.'' 

''His work is autobiographical but he expands on his experiences to the point where, as he admits, they reflect lives not his own and histories he could not have known first hand. For Teboul, writing is the opportunity to create a place of one’s own for Jews within the larger context, be it political or cultural. There is no question of erasing distinctions.

Rather, as he suggests, his novelistic enterprise is the insertion of the Jew in the history of literature, in particular, to inscribe Sephardic experience within Quebecois literature,“ pour que notre vécu de Juifs sépharades soit aussi inscrit dans la littérature québécoise.”

His main character, Maurice Ben Haïm, is conceived to be a representative figure of the Jew in French Quebecois literature. ' Maurice Ben Haim, he writes,…s'inscrit en continuité avec une histoire, celle des Juifs du Québec, qui a eu cours avant son arrivée. Donc, dans ce sens, il y a une histoire ici qui le précède et avec laquelle il doit composer. Ainsi, si nous immigrons en France, nous nous identifions à une histoire des Juifs de France, même si nous, en tant qu'individus, venons tout juste d'arriver. Nous ne sommes donc pas des étrangers, puisque d'autres nous ont précédés et y ont posé des jalons. '

In short, we are not strangers to a land and, by extension, to an enterprise, to a form of art, to any realm of experience so long as other Jews have preceded us there. Teboul’s work is highly intelligent,  insightful, moving, and entertaining. It reflects a positive attitude regarding exile and a complex understanding of the modern Jew living, as he often is, outside his motherland and speaking in languages other than his mother tongue."

Aimée Israël-Pelletier in History and Culture of the Jews of Egypt In Modern Times, Publishers: Keness Hafakot – Israel, 2008. In cooperation with Herzl Institute, Haifa University, p. 222.

Posted on this site on Jan. 4, 2013

For studies and articles published on Victor Teboul's work, please click  HERE.

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