Research - Prof. dr. E. Helena Houvenaghel


Writing Mish-Mash
Angelina Muñiz-Huberman

Houvenaghel is selected as Writer-in-Residence 2021-22 by the Taller de Teoría y Crítica Literaria Diana Morán, which was founded in 1984 to promote and stimulate the study of Latin American Literature from a Gender Perspective. During her time at the Taller Diana Morán, Houvenaghel will forge interactions with the scholars and participants at the Taller Diana Morán and finish the book Escribir Mish Mash en el exilio: 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).

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: the book publication Making Mish-Mash (See: Table of contents).

The comparative study Generic hybridity in the mirror: Angelina Muñiz-Huberman and María Zambrano reflects on the significance of generic hybridity via a comparison between Muñiz-Huberman’s work and the work by the Spanish philosopher Maria Zambrano. This comparative perspective highlights two complementary sides of Muñiz-Huberman’s generic hybridity. From the perspective of modern conventions that set norms in philosophy and literature, generic hybridity is justified as a way to innovate by transgressing borders. From the angle of Antiquity and mysticism, on the other hand, generic hybridity is motivated as a path to restore the unity of Orpheus’ mythical language, that reconciles poetry, religion and philosophy, on the other.

In the article “Topography of the exclusion of the other”, I study the work by Jewish-Mexican writer Angelina Muñiz-Huberman (France, 1936) from an ethical perspective. Muñiz-Huberman’s work stands out for two contributions: one of a thematic nature, namely the reflection on the exclusion of the other, and the other of a formal nature, namely ‘transgeneric’ writing via the fusion of literary genres. How are these contributions related to each other? One of Muñiz-Huberman’s early works, Tierra adentro (Inland, 1977), seems to point out toward a process of mutual reinforcement in which the allegory plays a key role. Tierra adentro (Inland, 1977), on the literal level, tells how a Sephardic Jew is expulsed and makes his way from the Spain of the Golden Age to the Holy Land. On the secondary level, it simultaneously evokes the persecution of the Askhenazi Jews in the 20th century. The allegorical mode encourages an ethical reflection on the repetitive character of the expulsion and persecution of the other, represented by the Jewish community, throughout history and simultaneously stimulates the fusion of the traditional literary genres.