Monday, December 7, 2009

Graphic Novel Monday: Klezmer; Book One- Tales from the Wild East, by Joann Sfar


Klezmer; Book One- Tales of the Wild East, by Joann Sfar. Published 2006 by First Second. Graphica. Translated from the French.

Joann Sfar's graphic novel Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East is a charming and funny book with a hopeful message. Set in pre-war Europe amid the shtetls of Eastern Europe, two groups of musicians meet independently and have some comic adventures; when they meet onstage, hilarity ensues.

Yaacov, a runaway yeshiva boy, meets Vincenzo, who was kicked out of his yeshiva for stealing. Yaacov takes a banjo he finds from some dead musicians. The two boys meet Tshokola, a Gypsy musician, and proposes starting a band. Elsewhere, Noah Davidovich, the sole survivor of a group of massacred klezmer musicians, takes up with Chava, a runaway singer grown weary of the confines of shtetl life. He plays harmonica and together they head to Odessa to seek their fortune. When the two groups meet, the Gypsy Tshokola surprises everyone with a unique "Jewish" story, and love is in the air.

Klezmer is a delight from start to finish, with Sfar's trademark wit and extroverted and colorful artwork. If you've read The Rabbi's Cat or its sequel you'll already be familiar with what to expect, but the rest of you will be in for a treat if you decide to make this your first venture into Sfar's exuberant, joyful world. The occasional profanity and sexual references make it appropriate for teens and older; most of Sfar's work is not appropriate for children, as delightful as it truly is. A fun comic romp and window into a lost world, Klezmer is a terrific book.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.

10 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I like Sfar and I love Klezmer - sounds like a good book for me!

Jack said...

Fabulous graphic novel, but one note to the unwary...Sfar is reimagining a past that didn't happen, much like cowboy westerns or steampunk. For example, most of the music he weaves in was written well after the time period. Another example...gun toting Chassidim musicians? Didn't happen.

Not a complaint by a long shot. Makes for a grand adventure.

pinkflipflops said...

Marie, quick question. Is it just me or do other people have a tough time opening up your site? Almost every time I try, it freezes up or I have to reset my router. Drives me boinkers. And in other news, I left you an award over at my blog.

Marie said...

Jack- interesting. Nobody ever accused Sfar of writing history- I think it's supposed to be fiction- so hopefully we can enjoy it on that level. When was the music he used actually composed if you don't mind my asking?

bermudaonion said...

Sounds interesting - I'll have to look for this one.

Jack said...

Marie...Sorry I didn't respond last night. I was at a Matisyahu concert :). I'll get back to you as quick as I can.

Marie said...

Jack- don't sweat it. :-)

John A. Walsh said...

I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Sfar's art in both Klezmer and The Rabbi's Cat. Too scratchy for my tastes?

I am a HUGE fan of The Professors Daughter however; written by Sfar and illustrated by the amazing Emmanuel Guibert.

Love this aspect of your blog Marie!

Zibilee said...

This looks like a very interesting graphic novel. It seems very unique and like something that would really interest me. I am staring to collect a few graphic novels, and your reviews have been invaluable in choosing them. Thanks so much for your great graphic novel reviews!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I have to confess I'm a Sfardic. This has been on my wish list for eons now.