Here's What Casa Shalom Has to Say:
"Although marketed as fiction, Terra Incognita is important in the way it portrays the attitudes of these people even in modern times, and should encourage all Jews to be aware of the subject and do all possible to aid the Marranos-Anusim."
Reviewed by Gloria Mound, Executive Director, Casa Shalom: The Institute for Marrano-Anusim Studies
This novel began its life as a four-part series on Jewish Catalonia for Mishpacha Magazine.
Although this book is listed as a novel, the author intensively researched the background to the story she produced. The narrative concerns people in a Catalonian village named Sant Joan Januz. A young local man, Vidal Bonet, returns home to this Catalonian backwater after obtaining a business degree in New York. He is full of ideas for making their rural town into an upscale modern resort, a scheme not well received by the residents, especially the older generation. Then Chaim Green, a Jewish anthropology student from Kansas, appears in the village, determined to discover descendents and links of his forbears who were forced to flee from Spain because they secretly continued Jewish practices. He too, much to his surprise, gets no co-operation from the locals. Both men doggedly press on with their ambitions. Through the tensions in the families and the communities caused by the juxtaposition of old and new, tradition and change, the reader becomes aware of the endurance of the Jewish people over so many centuries. Both of the young protagonists, as well as the people of Sant Joan Januz, will be changed forever.
This novel is important because it shows us links to the crypto-Jewish traditions not only of Catalonia, but also many Balearic Island families. We are familiar with many of their descendents, who admit to their Jewish identity (although this book does not mention this connection). Ms. Astaire's research concerning this area is top notch. I have had numerous contacts and revelations regarding these little-known villages in Spain, as well as elsewhere in the world with a Hispanic link, and we find that they are almost all of Marrano-Anusim origin. Even today, they continue with their customs and way of life, but strangers are rarely welcome, unless they can prove a strong connection to Israel. Although marketed as fiction, Terra Incognita is important in the way it portrays the attitudes of these people even in modern times, and should encourage all Jews to be aware of the subject and do all possible to aid the Marranos-Anusim.
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