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The Cross and the Pear Tree: A Sephardic Journey Paperback – Oct 28 1996

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Reprint edition (Oct. 28 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520206525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520206526
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.6 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #388,148 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Library Journal

Guatemalan writer Perera (Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy, LJ 9/1/93) chronicles the history of his Sephardic family from his parents' generation back to the family's Spanish origins. He discovers many eminent ancestors. The French branch of the family boasted Jacob Pereira, the 18th-century creator of a manual alphabet and techniques of articulation for training deaf mutes; and the brothers Isaac and Emile Pereire, who introduced the railways in France and, despite great wealth, supported workers' rights and denounced child labor. In tracing his family's history, Perera discovers Christian branches of the family and believes that there may even be Muslim branches. Despite minor errors in his chapter on the Sepharad in Spain, Perera's family history is a worthy addition to the growing literature on the Sephardim. It complements Howard Sachar's Farewell Espa?a: The World of Sephardim Remembered (LJ 11/15/94). Recommended for academic libraries and public libraries with strong reader interest in this area.?Robert Andrews, Duluth P.L., Minn.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Perera, who was born in Guatemala City of Sephardic Jews from Jerusalem, explores the history of his family, choosing those members whose lives illuminate important facets of the Sephardic experience. Perera traces his family back to the fourteenth century in Toledo, where the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Some fled to Portugal, where the Inquisition was introduced in 1547. He probes one branch of the family that left Portugal for France in 1703, finding safe haven in Bordeaux. Perera discusses his great-great-grandfather, who wrote two books of commentaries in the 1870s, rooted in his faith in the Kabbala's prophecies. We meet his mother, a woman who spoke seven languages but often lapsed into the earthy Ladino idiom of her ancestors. Perera re-creates the life of his grandfather in an effort to reclaim his own Jewish identity. This chronicle of Sephardic culture and history is a vivid and absorbing account by a first-rate writer. George Cohen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on Oct. 17 1998
Format: Hardcover
I read this book just after it was published. Victor Perera's life and background are of interest to all who have an interest in family, history and the journeys of generations. Whether the reader is of Jewsh, Spanish or Portoguese background, he will find things in this book which will astound him. Read this book!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xb2449894) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7de69c0) out of 5 stars Fascinating Dec 31 2007
By Bonnee Shafner Oderberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some years ago I was introduced to a web designer whose last name was Perera. Although he came from a Catholic family, as I worked with him and being Jewish myself, I began to wonder if he was from Jewish roots in Spain. The more I worked with him, the stronger the feeling became. I asked him about it and he pretty much laughed it off, but did say that there was some vague family lore about it but no one knew. Eventually, I felt I wanted to know if it was true and my search lead me to this book. I felt Victor Perera's research is fascinating and brilliant. I couldn't put the book down. Of course, it proved my hunch beyond a reasonable doubt, I believe, and this was very satisfying. The web designer was perplexed at the news. I'm not sure if he shared it with him family or not. In any case, over the years, I still think about what an interesting book this is and I've recommended it to several people. Alas, last night I met a Jewish convert whose mother is from Spain and recommended the book once again. She is excited to get her hands on it.

Highly recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7cac918) out of 5 stars The Pear Tree is ripe for the pickin... Oct. 9 2007
By Sam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Great book,I was very interested in the premise after a friend bought it for me as a gift. I really enjoyed the book's flow and the Sefardic postmodern experience through the authors eyes. As I have written before the Sefardic experience is "complicated" to say the least. This experience can only be truly described by a fellow Andalusian Jew. I highly recommend this book for those who want to understand the complexities of being an Iberian Sefardic Jew. The Book reads easily and its a fascinating account of one of many families that are in exile both from Israel and from our beloved Sefarad. A true joy to read and relish in.
note: The duality between the Families having both Jews and Christians in it is very real to this day. Check out the cover.
Shemuel Fuentes de Lemos
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7df2e4c) out of 5 stars An Excellent Book Oct. 17 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read this book just after it was published. Victor Perera's life and background are of interest to all who have an interest in family, history and the journeys of generations. Whether the reader is of Jewsh, Spanish or Portoguese background, he will find things in this book which will astound him. Read this book!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa7d3784c) out of 5 stars Wonderful Book Full of Great History of the Pereira Lineage! Feb. 3 2011
By Robyn Pereira H - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a Pereira it is wonderful to learn about my Ancestors and The History of our Lineage. It is also just an interesting history book. It shares many names in the book which helps if you too are a Pereira and looking for Lineage connections with names.
HASH(0xa7dc2624) out of 5 stars "... and then he got up and left." July 17 2014
By Konrad Riggenmann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I bought Victor Perera's book just because the three star review by "El Picaro" condemned the book as "basically ... the musing of a left leaning secularized Jew who seems more sympathetic to the Palestinians ... Very disappointing."
Descending from Portuguese Jews myself, Perera's "Sephardic Journey" disappointed me by no means. During two millennia, the Perera tree had many branches, including a female beauty sequestered by a British corsair, a famous educator in France as well as a proud sugar magnate, early Zionist and anti-Spinozist in Amsterdam. What Perera tells about the experiences of the one sapling of the pear tree which chose to root again in modern Israel is very balanced and considerate, fairly conscious of the centuries of rather peaceful Muslim-Sephardic joint culture in Spain and Portugal.
Reviewer "El Picaro" argues that "although the cross is mentioned in the title, the author and his family all the way back to the expulsion from Spain have very little real experience or impact with Converso/Anusim issues". Admittedly, Perera's literary approach to these issues (comparable to Doreen Carvajal's "A Forgetting River") differs strongly from the more scholarly books of Stanley Hordes, Joachim Prinz, Nathan Wachtel, Jane Gerber, Miriam Bodian or Janet Liebman Jacobs. However, the letal-vital contrast of cross and pear-tree permeates Perera's book as its leitmotiv, for instance when he writes about the Catholic Saint Juan de la Cruz (John of the Cross) who was a descendant of Jewish "New Christians" just as cross-revering Saint Theresa de Avila or the lesser saint inquisitor Torquemada who allegedly used the crucifix to have King Ferdinand go ahead with inquisition in spite of Jewish bribes: "Behold the crucifix whom the wicked Judas sold for thirty pieces of silver." The mind-piercing symbol which dominates the history of anti-semitism figures central also in Perera's moving childhood experience with his Mayan nanny Chata: This young native American Catholic woman tried to save his Jewish soul by sneaking him into the Guatemalan cathedral "where she had me kneel at the foot of the crucified Christ", while young Victor's senses "reeled from the mingled scents of incense and Chata's blouse as she pressed her firm breasts against the back of my neck; this was the way of allaying my fright of the terrifying naked figure on the cross" (p.231).
Victor Perera wrote this book in his sixties, with the "seasoned melancholy of a Jewish soul" he ascribes to Alan Berliner. Correspondingly to the crucifix as a terribly token of the Godson's self-sacrificial obedience to his heavenly father, in my view it was not his grandfather's testament-fixed curse (cursing any of his descendants who would leave Palestine again) which made the grandson Victor decide "not to father children, for fear they would inherit the family curse my sister and I had to grapple with" (p.258). No, the "curse" was rather "the lifelong rage" his father had vented one Guatemalan afternoon "on my frail shoulders, my back and my buttocks". The terrible, unjustified punishment (reminding me on the harsh childhood punishment a Sephardic friend related to me here in Brazil) had, again, to do with the cross: The innocent little scoundrel had called his mother a bad name whose meaning he as a boy of nine years was unable to grasp; a word he had heard his mother using for the wooden center figure of a Holy Week procession: for the gold-crowned, velvet-gowned Mary, virgin mother of the man on cross.
Subtitled "A Sephardic Journey", this is a book about the deep dimensions of surface migrations, of pear shoots attempting to sprout between the crosses which sprout quicker at all their destinations. The book starts with the verse "If I forget thee, Jerusalem ..." and focuses on a paradox which the author at the end makes flash in his gentile-married friend Marcos Cohen, who told him about how his (Victor's) father incurred the curse by leaving Haifa for Guatemala: "He taught us all about our prophetic destiny in Eretz Israel, and then he got up and left."


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