The Multicultural Cities of Plovdiv and Ruse Through the Eyes of Elias Canetti and Angel Wagenstein. Two “Post-Ottoman” Jewish WritersGiustina Selvelli
, 2019, published scientific conference contribution abstract
Abstract: The aim of my presentation is to illustrate the cosmopolitan setting of the Bulgarian cities of Ruse and Plovdiv during the first half of the 20th Century, as depicted in the memoirs of two Sephardic Jewish writers: Elias Canetti (born in Ruse) and Angel Wagenstein (born in Plovdiv). Particular attention will be devoted to the role played by the Jewish communities during the Ottoman and post-Ottoman period, in terms of their contribution to the economic
and cultural life of the cities. Canetti was born in 1905, in post-Ottoman Ruse, while Wagenstein was born in Plovdiv in 1922, in the after-war period. Notwithstanding
these years of difference, the situation in the two cities appeared rather similar: the Sephardic Jews were still living as a distinct unity in terms of religion and language, being able to keep their own cultural identities alive. The memoirs of Canetti and Wagenstein
are quite significant as they come from a later period, expressing a principle of “nostalgia” as the process of “de-Ottomanization” had almost completely been carried out.
For what concerns Canetti, the memories of Ruse occupy a special place in his novel Die Gerettete Zunge (The tongue set free,1977): the writer recalls a fascinating setting, characterized by a Babylonian confusion of languages, where the most diverse nationalities
crossed and met, such as Russians, Jews, Romanians, Roma and Armenians. In relation to Plovdiv, in his novel Dalech ot Toledo (Far from Toledo, 2002), apart from the Bulgarian majority, Wagenstein describes the lively presence of the Turkish, Jewish, Armenian, Greek and Roma communities, defining their patterns of daily interactions as a specific model of interethnic coexistence. By relating to the composite legacy of their home towns, Canetti and Wagenstein stand out as highly multicultural Jewish personalities, acknowledging the importance of the different cultural worlds they were exposed to, not only the Jewish and
Bulgarian, but also the Turkish and in general the “Oriental” ones.
Keywords: Elias Canetti, Angel Wagenstein, Plovdiv, Ruse, Bulgaria, Multiethnic cities, Post-Imperial Legacy
Published in RUNG: 22.12.2020; Views: 2031; Downloads: 0
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