Yiddish, Spanish, Hebrew, and English-at various points in Ilan Stavans’s life, each of these has been his primary language. In this rich memoir, the linguistic chameleon outlines his remarkable cultural heritage from his birth in politically fragile Mexico, through his years as a student activist and young Zionist in Israel, to his present career as a noted and controversial academic and writer.
Along the way, Stavans introduces readers to some of the remarkable members of his family-his brother, a musical wunderkind; his father, a Mexican soap opera star; his grandmother, who arrived in Mexico from Eastern Europe in 1929 and wrote her own autobiography. Masterfully weaving personal reminiscences with a provocative investigation into language acquisition and cultural code switching, On Borrowed Words is a compelling exploration of Stavans’s search for his place in the world.
Ilan Stavans is the author of numerous short stories and more than 15 works of nonfiction, including Quixote: The Novel and the World and Resurrecting Hebrew. His many awards and honors include an Emmy nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Pablo Neruda Medal,… More about Ilan Stavans
“A meditation on how language defines not just the words we use but the places we come from.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Stavans’s Mexico . . . is a treacherous but vivid world seen through the eyes of a gifted child; his subsequent encounter with America makes the New World seem-astonishingly-new.” James Atlas, author of Bellow: A Biography
Table Of Contents
1. México Lindo 2. The Rise and Fall of Yiddish 3. Under the Spotlight 4. On My Brother’s Trail 5. Amerika, America 6. The Lettered Man