"Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Volume IV" by Armistead, Silverman, and Katz.

"Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Volume IV" by Armistead, Silverman, and Katz.

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Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Volume IV.
Judeo-Spanish Ballads from Oral Tradition III. Carolingian Ballads (2): Conde Claros collected by Samuel G. Armistead, Joseph H. Silverman, and Israel J. Katz.

Edition and Study by Samuel G. Armistead with Musical Transcriptions by Israel J. Katz. Technical Editor, Karen L. Olson.

As part of the ongoing multi-volume series, Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews, Vol. IV is devoted to ballads concerning Count Claros. Early Spanish ballad singers saw, in Count Claros of Montalbán, the quintessential amorous ballad hero. Songs about his erotic adventures and their sometimes perilous entanglements multiplied in the tradition over time and his fame was eventually to spread far afield, from Spain to Iberoamerica, to Portugal, to Italy, and to France. Because Claros’ adventures are developed within a Carolingian context—with Charlemagne and the 12 peers often present in the background—we have been obliged to classify and study the Claros ballads as part of the Carolingian corpus. There may be some vague, distant, and, as of now, hardly convincing connection, between Claros de Montalbán and the famous French epic hero, Renaut de Montauban—and there is, of course, no dearth of seductive, enamored princesses in many of the chansons de geste. All the same, to our knowledge, none of Claros’ various adventures attest even to a distant connection with any specific episode  in the Old French epics. His ballads then must, at best, be characterized for now as pseudo-Carolingian.

Despite the protagonist’s amorous fame and his vast popularity during Spain’s Golden Age, Count Claros has, in one sense, been neglected by modern ballad scholarship. There has been little effort aimed at classifying the various different Claros ballads or sorting out and identifying these diverse narratives, already intricately joined to one another in both the early and the modern  oral traditions. One notable exception among modern scholars is our esteemed friend and colleague, Bráulio do Nascimento, an outstanding ballad scholar and a great pioneer in Claros studies, to whom the present volume is gratefully dedicated.

In Vol. IV, we identify no less than seven different 16th-century Claros narratives: Count Claros and the Emperor, Sleepless Count Claros, Count Claros and the Princess, Imprisonment of Count Claros, Beheading of Count Claros, Escape to Montalbán and Count Claros Disguised as a Friar. Of these seven narratives, five have come over into the modern tradition: Emperor, Sleepless, Princess, and Disguise have survived among the Sephardim and, in some cases, elsewhere, and are studied in depth in the present volume. In Portuguese and Catalan areas, Imprisonment, which has a happy ending, has also survived. Only the grim—and obviously terminal—Beheading and also, for whatever reason, Escape to Montalbán have both disappeared from the modern tradition.

In the present volume’s two extensive chapters, we study in detail the four Claros ballads that had, within living memory, been sung in the two geographic branches of the Sephardic tradition: on one hand, in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean communities (including Greece, Turkey, and Israel) and, on the other, in the Spanish-speaking Sephardic towns and cities in northern Morocco. Extra-Hispanic congeners and various unrelated ballads that have contaminated the Claros ballads are also explored.

Israel J. Katz’s musical transcriptions and detailed, far ranging ethnomusicological studies of the ballad tunes—including Francisco Salinas’ two 16th-century notations of  Sleepless Count Claros—add an indispensable musical component to Vol. IV. Also included are an  extensive bibliography, nine different indices, and an etymological glossary pertaining to lexical items from the many languages that have influenced Judeo-Spanish over the centuries. Old Spanish and Judeo-Spanish dialect forms are also listed. Special attention has been paid, in Vol. IV, to Romance, Balkan, and Near Eastern lexical items that parallel words cited in the text and notes.

SeriesEstudios judeoespañoles «Samuel G. Armistead y Joseph Silverman», #5.
ISBN 978-1-58871-058-1 (PB) 658 pp. $110.