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André E. Elbaz.

Toronto, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, c1982.
192pp, cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-88902-701-3.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Meguido Zola.

Volume 11 Number 4.
1983 July.

To the folklorist, the best folktale is a told rather than written one. And here to try to prove it is a fascinating first survey of some threescore and ten folktales, legends, and anecdotes collected orally from Moroccan Jewish immigrants in Canada, transcribed in the original Judeo-Arabic, French, and Judeo-Spanish, and subsequently translated into English by Elbaz. It represents a brave attempt by a meticulous scholar to save from oblivion part of the rich oral tradition of a new Canadian ethnic group, who are fast disappearing from their North African homelands where they have lived for centuries.

These tales of magic and fantasy, of miracle-working rabbis, malevolent demons, and mischievous tricksters, and rogues are recognizably authentic. Moreover, the collection treats its material (and its readers) with a respect not usually accorded in anthologies for the general reader, for example, the stories are properly illuminated with commentaries on the storytellers as well as on the stories themselves, their social context, their type, and motif categories, and so on.

The weakness of this collection—and it is a serious weakness—is that it gives little heed to the value of the stories from a literary standpoint; it pays not enough attention to the stories' meaning and power (and, even, coherence) as literature. In their selection, arrangement, and telling, these are cultural artifacts faithfully recorded by a scholar and folklorist; it is not a literary anthology crafted by a storyteller and artist.

As such, Folktales of the Canadian Sephardim is more for the specialized university collection rather than the general school library.

Meguido Zola, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.
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