My purpose on this page is to provide readers with personal reflections, stories, and additional resources related to my novel, By Fire, By Water.
I. The Locksmith's Tale
While researching By Fire, By Water, I traveled to Spain with my wife, Annie. Walking in the historical Jewish Quarter of Granada, we came across a locksmith working with ancient-looking keys and latches in his workshop. The door was open and we peeked in.
The wrinkled, dark-skinned man wiped his hands on his apron and asked what he could do for us. I told him we were interested in the history of the juderia. Did he have any interesting background information or suggestions?
As it turned out, he did. He stood, approached us, and told us the story of a Moroccan-Jewish family who had come to Granada a few years earlier, following five hundred years of exile. Not only had they passed down, from generation to generation, stories about the location and appearance of their home in Spain (which had very possibly belonged to their family for centuries), but they had preserved the key to their front gate. The locksmith helped them locate the house, and to everyone's amazement, the key still fit the lock.
This story stretches credulity, I know. But the man seemed sincere -- and we certainly did see some very old-looking locks. In any case, it says reams about the attachment that Sephardic Jews (the descendents of Jews exiled from Spain in 1492) still feel for their ancestral homeland.
II. A Small Photograph That Tells A Huge Story
My friends Janet and Jack Mostow took this picture while visiting Spain recently.
<---- Scan horizontally across this portion of the photo. Notice the two huge letters in the western European alphabet, "F" and "Y."
< ----Now look at this portion. Here's a closer view:
As you see, the letters here are not in the European alphabet, but Arabic.
What we have here is a chamber in the Alhambra, decorated with Arabic words in ornate plaster filigree, as described in By Fire, By Water. On top of this room, King Fernando ("F") and Queen Ysabel ("Y") slapped a ceiling in the starkly contrasting style of XVth-century Christian Castile. One can say they placed a lid on the Moorish culture, literally as well as figuratively.
III. The Music of Sepharad
For a musical treat that evokes the world in which my female protagonist, Judith Migdal, lives, click here: Mystic Flower