Seventh Heaven

Travels through Jewish Latin America

Truly fine travel writing looks both out and in, and Ilan Stavans’ The Seventh Heaven is a book of that rare sort. From Jewish stand-up comedy in Buenos Aires to the Montevideo grave of the mysterious Mr. Chouchani, we follow Stavans’ journey through Jewish Latin America with fascination and delight. But the journey is also a restless personal search for home, for wisdom, for imaginary happiness, and Stavans renders this journey both idiosyncratically his own and, at the same time, about us all.
Martha C. Nussbaum, The University of Chicago

Internationally renowned essayist and cultural commentator Ilan Stavans spent five years traveling from across a dozen countries in Latin America, in search of what defines the Jewish communities in the region, whose roots date back to Christopher Columbus’s arrival. In the tradition of V.S. Naipaul’s explorations of India, the Caribbean, and the Arab World, he came back with an extraordinarily vivid travelogue. Stavans talks to families of the desaparecidos in Buenos Aires, to “Indian Jews,” and to people affiliated with neo-Nazi groups in Patagonia. He also visits Spain to understand the long-term effects of the Inquisition, the American Southwest habitat of “secret Jews,” and Israel, where immigrants from Latin America have reshaped the Jewish state. Along the way, he looks for the proverbial “seventh heaven,” which, according to the Talmud, out of proximity with the divine, the meaning of life in general, and Jewish life in particular, becomes clearer. The Seventh Heaven is a masterful work in Stavans’s ongoing quest to find a convergence between the personal and the historical.

October, 2019

isbn : 9780822945857

about the author

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American, and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is a renowned essayist, cultural critic, and translator. Stavans has authored, coauthored, or edited many works of fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, and anthologies. He is the editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, and hosts the NPR podcast In Contrast.

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Ilan Stavans