Research - Prof. dr. E. Helena Houvenaghel


Writing Mish-mash
Angelina Muñiz-Huberman

In 2018, the Spanish-Mexican Jewish writer Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (1936, France) received the annual National Prize for Arts and Sciences (Mexico) for her contribution to two fields: 1) the dissemination of the Sephardic culture in Mexico (via her research on medieval Hispano-Hebrew literary tradition and on Jewish mysticism) and 2) the innovation of the conventional literary genres (via the constant blending of literary genres, via the introduction of the neo-historical novel in Mexico and via the creation of the new genre called ‘pseudomemories’).

This second, innovative contribution is the heart of Muñiz-Huberman’s writing. The dissipation of limits between genres is one of the most constant features of the Hispanic-Mexican author’s literary production. It permeates her work from her first publication in 1972, Morada interior (Inner Abode), to her most recent writing, El ultimo faro (The last lighthouse), in 2019. Muñiz-Huberman is conscious of this constant and considers “not abiding by the rules of any genre” as an essential feature of her work: “I think that is one of my characteristics since I started writing: not sticking to the rules, to what is established, I like to skip everything” (as cited in Montaño Garfias, 2017: 18.06).

Houvenaghel refers to this hybridity with the Yiddish term mish-mash, a word Muñiz-Huberman uses on the last page of Los Esperandos (Those who wait, 2017), where she defines her book as a “mish-mash”. She hopes that if this “eccentric book” gets published, it will be an example that “in literary matters, transgression is what is advisable to […] open up horizons” (2017: 359).

Furthermore, the author thematizes such writing praxis of hybridity in interviews and autobiographical texts. She acknowledges being proud of having made a significant contribution to the innovation of the literary forms and proposes to “retire literary genres” (Muñiz-Huberman as cited in Montaño Garfias, 2017: 18.06). “There are so many possibilities in literature and I think that we don’t have to follow Aristotle and his three unities anymore,” she states. For Muñiz-Huberman, generic blending has to do with the need for creative freedom, and she presents genres as restrictive (as cited in Hind, 2003: 111).

hybridity is thus central to Muñiz-Huberman’s practicing and thinking about literature. But why and how? What are the underlying reasons for this hybridity? What tension exists between this innovative writing and her connection to the Jewish tradition? How is this hybridity realized in her work? How does Angelina Muñiz-Huberman develop hybridity and brings it to deeper level? Houvenaghel zooms in on Angelina Muñiz-Huberman’s contribution to moving forward literature via generic experimentation. See: articles and the book publication Making Mish-Mash (See: Table of contents).