A Novel

Blanche Bendahan, Frances Malino, Yaëlle Azagury

Raised in the Judería or Jewish quarter of Tetouan, Morocco, at the turn of the 20th-century, sixteen-year-old Mazaltob finds herself betrothed to José, an uncouth man from her own community who has returned from Argentina to take a wife. Mazaltob, however, is in love with Jean, who is French, half-Jewish, and a free spirit. In this classic of North African Jewish fiction, Blanche Bendahan evokes the two compelling forces tearing Mazaltob apart in her body and soul: her loyalty to the Judería and her powerful desire to follow her own voice and find true love.

Bendahan’s nuanced and moving novel is a masterly exploration of the language, religion, and quotidian customs constraining North African Jewish women on the cusp of emancipation and decolonization. Yaëlle Azagury and Frances Malino provide the first English translation of this modern coming-of-age tale, awarded a prize by the Académie Française in 1930, and analyze the ways in which Mazaltob, with its disconcerting blend of ethnographic details and modernist experimentation, is the first of its genre—that of the feminist Sephardi novel. A historical introduction, a literary analysis, and annotations elucidate historical and cultural terms for readers, supplementing the author’s original notes.

Cover Image of Mazaltob: A Novel
Paper: $29.95 | Cloth: $120 | E-book: $39.95
ISBN-13: 9781684582051
Pages: 192 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: June 1, 2024

This polyphonic novel is both historically important and, in its new translation, a gift for our current times.

Elizabeth Graver

Author of Kantika


  • "Mazaltob" is a fascinating portrait of a young
    Moroccan Sephardi woman as she navigates
    the ever-shifting ground between tradition
    and modernity, East and West, self and
    other, obligation and desire. Stylistically bold,
    culturally rich, by turns comic and wrenching,
    this polyphonic novel is both historically
    important and, in its new translation, a gift for
    our current times.

    Elizabeth Graver
    Author of Kantika
  • English-language readers will rejoice at this translation of Blanche Bendahan’s coming-of-age story, set in northern Morocco at the turn of the century and following the dreams and travails of a Jewish young woman who chafes at the constraints that society places upon her. This marvelous annotated translation restores to us the forgotten words of an award-winning Jewish woman writer—and introduces us to a young, female Jewish protagonist whose sexual, spiritual, and desires are evocative and timely. With artful, informed introductory words by Yaelle Azagury and Frances Malino, Mazeltob is a crucial compliment and counterpoint to Albert Memmi’s Pillar of Salt: it is what students of French, North African, and Jewish culture have been thirsting for.

    Abreyava Stein
    Professor of History and Viterbi Family Chair in Mediterranean Jewish Studies, UCLA
  • Bendahan’s masterpiece, a stunning exploration of Jewishness, feminism, and modernity in Morocco, deserves to be read far and wide. Malino’s excellent biographical introduction and Azagury’s fascinating literary analysis beautifully frame their translation. A delight and a triumph!

    Jessica M. Marglin
    Professor of Religion, Law and History and Ruth Ziegler Chair in Jewish Studies, USC
  • A beautiful, poetic novel, Mazaltob offers rich description of the lives of Jewish women in early 20th century Tetouan, while also reflecting upon the early 20th century French intellectual milieu of its author, Blanche Bendahan. The fluid translation makes the work of this important but long-overlooked Sephardic writer a pleasure to read in English.

    Deborah Starr
    Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies, Cornell University

About the Author

Blanche Bendahan (née Bénoliel) was born in Oran, Algeria on November 26, 1893, to a Jewish family of Moroccan-Spanish origin. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to France, where she was educated in the French system. Bendahan published her first collection of poetry, La voile sur l’eau, in 1926 and then her first novel, Mazaltob, in 1930. Mazaltob, which won an award from the Académie Française, portrays a North African woman in Tetouan, Morocco, and the oppression to which she is subjected by the patriarchal society in which she lives.

Yaëlle Azagury is a writer, literary scholar, and critic.  She was Lecturer in French and Francophone Studies at Barnard College, and Lecturer in Discipline in the English and Comparative Literature Department at Columbia University. She has contributed essays and scholarly articles for Women Writing Africa, Rethinking Jewish Culture and Society in North Africa and the Middle East , among other scholarly volumes.  She is a native of Tangier, Morocco.

Frances Malino is the Sophia Moses Robison Professor of Jewish Studies and History Emerita at Wellesley College. She is author of The Sephardic Jews of Bordeaux: Assimilation and Emancipation in Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1978) and A Jew in the French Revolution: The Life of Zalkind Hourwitz (1996) and co-editor of Essays in Modern Jewish History: a Tribute to Ben Halpern (1982), The Jews in Modern France (1985), Profiles in Diversity: Jews in a Changing Europe (1998), and Voices of the Diaspora: Jewish Women Writing in the New Europe (2005). Her current project is titled Teaching Freedom: Jewish Sisters in Muslim Lands. In 2012 she was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques by the French Ministry of Education.

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