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  You are in: Home > Jewish Studies > Vidal and His Family  
 

Vidal and His Family
From Salonica to Paris
The Story of a Sephardic Family in the Twentieth Century

Edgar Morin

Edgar Morin is Emeritus Director at the CNRS (French National Research Center), and one of France’s leading intellectuals. He has written on a variety of subjects, reviewed and received to great acclaim, ranging from Cinema to History, Politics to Science and Education. His central effort is to develop a “method,” an approach to inquiry that will do justice to the complexity of the world and of human beings.

 

Edgar Morin, one of France’s greatest living intellectuals, tells the story of his father, Vidal Nahoum, but also the story of Sephardic Jews, and of Europe. In this “holographic history” Vidal’s story, and that of his family, carries within it the flowering, decline, and death of Jewish culture in Spain, the passage from Empires to Nation States, the complex relations between Jews and Gentiles, between East and West, and, ultimately, the history of the twentieth century itself. Morin’s work ranges from the great sweep of global historical events to the everyday details of individual lives, letters, feelings, reflections, and experiences.

Vidal was born in 1894 in the Ottoman Empire’s great Macedonian port. His great-grandfather came from Tuscany and spoke Italian. His mother tongue was fifteenth-century Spanish. He learned French and German as a child. When he was an adolescent, he dreamed of living in France; he was deported there as a prisoner, and then liberated by the French Prime Minister. He lived through the Balkan wars, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and two World Wars.

Vidal cannot be isolated from his family. And as Edgar Morin explains, “this book also tells the stories of the men and women in his immediate family… When, as his son, I inevitably come into his story … I describe him as objectively as possible. The reverence that inspired me did not call for a work of edification; it implied that I should attempt to write a truthful book. For this reason, the book is not in the least respectful, or at least not in the usual sense of the word. Vidal felt that loving someone meant being able to tease him. The author of these lines, who has inherited something of this trait, does not think it disrespectful to tease or make fun of the people he loves.”



Foreword by Alfonso Montuori
Preface to the French Edition

Prologue
THE SEPHARDIM
SALONICA
“THE GOLDEN AGE”
MARRANISM AND SHABBATAISM
THE DARK CENTURY
THE LIVORNESE
THE TRIUMPH OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
IN THE TURKS’ COUNTRY
THE SALONICIAN HYBRID

Chapter I: The Nahum Family
A LIVORNESE FAMILY
THE DAWN OF THE 20TH CENTURY
BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Chapter II: Adolescence
YOUNG VIDAL

Chapter III: The First World War
BE QUIET, MARSEILLES!

Chapter IV: Move to Paris, Marriage and Birth of a Son
THE FATHER’S DEATH
MARRIAGE
BIRTH

Chapter V: Frenchification: First Phase (1921–1931)
FAILURE IN GERMANY
PUTTING DOWN ROOTS
VIDAL IN THE SENTIER
THE RUE MAYRAN
PARISIAN LIFE
HOLIDAYS
THE NAHUMS (1920–1930)
THE BERESSIS (1920–1930)
FRIENDSHIP
DIASPORA, AGAIN
NATURALIZATION

Chapter VI: Rueil and the Death of Luna

Chapter VII: A New Life (1931–1939)
FATHER AND SON
CITIZEN VIDAL
THE STRANGE MARRIAGE
THE RUE DES PLATRIÈRES
THE FAMILY

Chapter VIII: The 1939 to 1945 War
THE PHONEY PEACE
VIDAL THE SOLDIER
THE RETREAT
A HARSH WINTER
NOVEMBER 1942 TO SEPTEMBER 1943
VIDAL HIDES LIKE A HERMIT CRAB FROM PERSECUTION
ITALIAN PROTECTION
SEPTEMBER 1943 TO SEPTEMBER 1944
THE SURVIVORS AND THE DEAD

Chapter IX: After the War (1945–1960)
VIDAL AT FIFTY
FATHER AND SON (CONTINUED)
HALF HIS LIFE
THE OTHER HALF
LOVE OF FAMILY
PAPOU
FAMILY

Chapter X: The Nineteen-Sixties
TRIALS
HENRI’S DEATH
TAKING ACTION
VIDAL SAVES MATHILDE
THE JOURNEY TO CALIFORNIA

Chapter XI: The Nineteen-Seventies
PILGRIMAGES
THE DEATHS OF LÉON AND MATHILDE
“QUERENCIA”
THE DOMESTIC TRAGEDY
MOMENTS OF RESPITE
DREAM
THE MEDAL, AT LAST
NINETEEN EIGHTY-SIX

Chapter XII: The Last Years
THE LOW-PRESSURE ZONE
SUPER-PAPOU
WANDERINGS
FIRST SEPARATION
SECOND SEPARATION
THE END

Epilogue
VIDALICO
SECRET
WHAT WAS VIDAL’S PLACE?
THE RELIGION OF THE FAMILY
DIASPORA WITHIN THE DIASPORA
THE DEATH OF A CULTURE
STATELESS AND POLY-STATELESS
“PASTELLICO”


Chronology
Notes to Edgar Morin: Diary of a Life
Notes to Preface and Chapters

 

“Edgar Morin, a renowned French intellectual, has written a testament to his father, a biography of a very complex and interesting person, and much more. Vidal Nahum’s life spanned most of the twentieth century and this book includes many excerpts from his own memoir, interwoven appropriately, and italicized so that the reader can easily distinguish his voice from that of his son.

Vidal Nahum was born in 1894, the youngest son of a large, well-established Sephardic family from Salonica. The book describes a many-branched family and the intertwining lives of a very big clan whose members wandered throughout the Middle East, Europe, and beyond, in search of livelihood, peace, and a place to grow roots. In that sense, the book is not only about Morin’s father and his extended family, but about Sephardic Jewry and its almost-millennium-long history, dating back to prior to the expulsion from Spain all the way to the present.

The book is well written. It is truly a saga worth reading for the light it sheds on a subject not often described in readable, compelling publications. It is recommended for libraries with extensive Jewish history collections, including specifically Sephardic history.” Michlean Amir, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC

 

Publication Details

 
Paperback ISBN:
978-1-84519-274-7
 
 
Page Extent / Format:
296 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
 
Release Date:
June 2009
  Illustrated:   No
 
Hardback Price:
£19.95 / $37.50
 
 

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