DAYS OF HONEY: The Tunisian Boyhood of Rafael Uzan by Irene Awret

DAYS OF HONEY: The Tunisian Boyhood of Rafael Uzan

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As told to me in my kitchen over daily cups of coffee, this is the story of Rafael Uzan, a native of a small town on the coast of Tunisia, a former shoemaker, pensioned gardener, and now successful primitive artist living in Safed"" (Israel). Awret thus offers Uzan's reminiscences in a reconstructed first-person voice--one that, unfortunately, is too flat to bring much color or drama to these largely uneventful vignettes from the Thirties and Forties. Uzan recalls childhood pets, village superstitions, Talmud-Torah schooling, and Jewish holiday-rituals--with a few anecdotes in an I.B. Singer vein. (""Here is the story of the Jew Moshani's adventure with the devils as remembered by his granddaughter Hadara. . ."") He provides some curious details on the peaceful-or-better coexistence between Jews and Moslems in this small town of Nabeul: ""The more often the Jews went to worship the better the Moslems liked it, for was there not one heaven stretched over Nabeul and the sea, and could they not but profit from our prayers?"" In a more personal vein, Uzan recalls his parents, his retarded brother, his Bar Mitzvah, his shoemaker apprenticeship, his thwarted romance with cousin Miriam. And World War II brings Italian/German occupation--with brief internment, escape, handyman work for the German army, and postwar depression: ""Caught between embittered Moslems and fed-up French protectors, hampered at every step by the chronic lack of raw materials, how was a Jew to make an honest living?"" (So, despite objections from his bride and in-laws, Uzan emigrated to Israel.) Very weak as storytelling, but modestly informative--and occasionally intriguing--as an evocation of pre-WW II Jewish life in North Africa, with interesting parallels to the European shtetl milieu.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Schocken