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By Fire, By Water - Reading Group Brochure

By Fire, By Water - Reading Group Brochure

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Published by otherpress

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Published by: otherpress on Feb 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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has lived and worked primarily in Paris and Los Angeles as a translator, screenwriter, and scriptconsultant. Currently he resides in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania,with his wife and two children. This is his first novel.www.mitchelljameskaplan.com
On a trip to the National Library in Paris several years ago I came upon alist of the sailors aboard Christopher Columbus’s ships in
. All of themen and boys possessed skills and held positions deemed necessary for along voyage aboard a fifteenth-century sailing vesselexcept one.Luis de Torres was not a sailor; he was Columbus’s “interpreter.”Columbus explained in his diaries that Torres spoke Hebrew, Arabic, andAramaic, as well as Spanish. Why did Columbus need a translator whospoke Arabic and Hebrew? Where, exactly, did Columbus think he wasgoing? What did “the Indias” really mean, to Columbus?Given his linguistic skills, I surmised, Luis de Torres must have been aJew from the Islamic kingdom of Granada, in the south of Spain. He wouldpersonally have experienced the three events that signaled the collapse of the medieval world order at the end of the fifteenth century: Isabella andFerdinandsreconquestofGranada,theexpulsionofallJewsfromSpain,andColumbus’s first voyage of discovery. But were these really separate events?Seized by curiosity, I began tracing the various threads of Luis deTorress,Columbus’s, and their monarchs’ stories. I found they all led back to oneman, Luis de Santángel, the chancellor of the kingdom of Aragon. It wasSantángel who urged Isabella to sponsor Columbuss voyage even after sherefused the sailor’s request three times. Luis de Santángel even offered tohelp finance Columbus’s voyage, with no possible profit for himself and allbenefits for the monarchs and Columbus.Why would any reasonable manlet alone a worldly, astute courtierinsist upon such an arrangement?The answer turned out to be surprising, psychologically rich, anddramatic.LuisdeSantángelwasinmanywaystheprototypeofpost-medievalman, having to navigate between cultures and identities in a world not yetprepared for such ambiguities. The result, for Santángel, included bothpersonal tragedy and fervent hope.Combining elements of a passionate love story with a religious mystery,
By Fire, By Water 
closely follows the contours of this crucial moment inhistory. I hope you find the material as compelling as I do.Best Regards,

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