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Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East Paperback – September 5, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; 1st edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431989
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431980
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In TheRabbi's Cat, Sfar showed a knack for slightly tweaked and jokey mystical fables, a talent he updates with a harsher edge in this first volume of a new series about a band of itinerant Klezmer musicians. While Cat reflected its drowsy, lugubrious North African setting, this tale is darker, edged with a tragic, Eastern European jocularity, a mix of the fantastic and cruel. In Sfar's expressive art, bright splotches of color overflow his wildly looping drawing. In the violent opening, Noah (nicknamed "The Baron of My Backside") narrowly escapes the massacre of his bandmates by rival musicians. Later in the book, after extracting some revenge, he puts a new band together with the misfits who roam through the intervening pages. They include a pair of former yeshiva students exiled for theft; the baron's voluptuous love interest, Chava; and Tshokola, a less than truthful gypsy on the run from Cossacks. Much of the book has the feel of a goofy, somewhat twisted vaudeville routine, with Sfar's characters meeting under bad circumstances and making light of it via some bad jokes. Deeply suffused with Jewish religious and ethnic identity, the book is profane, messy, jagged and wildly enthusiastic, much like klezmer itself. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Sfar used his father's Algerian Jewish heritage for The Rabbi's Cat (2005) and now turns to his mother's Eastern European Jewish roots for a tale he plans to spin out a bit. Early last century, 10 former military-band mates constitute an itinerant band that plays for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and so forth, until they reach a town where the local talent slays them--literally. Only the leader survives and bests the killers so decisively that after he hits the road again, a village maiden joins him. Meanwhile, an expelled yeshiva pupil finds the band's instruments, not all damaged, and takes the clarinet and the banjo. Haphazardly strumming away, he meets a hypersensitive young fiddler, then a burly young gypsy guitarist. Duo and trio collide, a new band forms in the nick of time, and more will happen in book 2. For this delightful picaresque, Sfar loosens his already loose style; his line gets squigglier; the coloration, simpler and lighter. As well befits the material, Chagall, the great painter of shtetl life, haunts every panel. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Actually I think that's what the author does with the subtitle!
James A. Cairney
The story is charming, the characters are interesting and there are some very funny parts.
Kineret WillowGreene
Klezmer cemented Joann Sfar in the constellation of my favorite comics creators.
Jim Palmer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Branson on October 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
Through expressive pen lines and emotive watercolor washes, Klezmer tells the interweaving stories of five wandering characters who eventually meet in Odessa and form a Klezmer band in order to survive. The novel opens with Noah (nicknamed "The Baron of My Backside") witnessing and narrowly escaping the killing of his band mates by another Klezmer band. After getting his revenge he is accompanied by the wily Chava, who wishes to escape her provincial village. We meet Yaacov a wide-eyed fifteen year old prodigy and Vincenzo an Italian violinist-both former Yeshiva students exiled for theft. Yaacov and Vincenzo inadvertently save the life of the gypsy Toshokola, (they happened to be sitting in the tree Cossacks tried to hang him from.) and he convinces the two into forming a band performing Jewish songs for, " Jews are constantly getting married, circumcised, engaged. There's some money to be made." There is a lot of incorporation of Yiddish songs, Jewish and Russian folklore and text from novelist Isaac Babel. (A Jewish author who was murdered during the "Great Purge" in 1940's Russia.) The story is bizarre, incredibly whimsical and at times very funny. On of my favorite lines is from Toshokola who, when asked why Cossacks were chasing him, begins to tell a fantastic tale. When caught in his bluff he quickly replies, " Telling things exactly the way they happened is so ugly it ought to be forbidden. I'm telling you a story, it's the most basic courtesy." When Yaacov clumsily tries out the violin, he insults Vincenzo who is an expert violinist. Vincenzo quickly snatches the instrument from the boy's hands and dramatically states, " In my family everyone's a violinist. Even the maid. Even the dead." A wonderful read, highly reccomended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Reader on October 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is gorgeous--I can't get enough of Sfar's talents...just open Klezmer to any spread, and see how beautiful his watercolors are. It's interesting seeing his range; Vampire Loves is awesome, funny, out there, and Klezmer is looser in style and a tad more serious (but still funny). A terrific read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By James A. Cairney on March 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book.

I bought it for my girlfriend who loves Klezmer music and has Jewish roots.
At first I thought "mmmh, maybe I'll give it a go, but the pictures are a bit weird!"....however as soon as I started reading it I was hooked and as my eyes grew accustomed to the style, I realized how wonderful the artwork actually was, both as great illustrations in themselves and as perfect for the story.
It's a fantastic story, almost like an old time adventure story but with much deeper and more interesting characters.
It pulls no punches with racism/bigotry/violence/nudity which all gives it a real gritty, feel....can I describe it as an Eastern Western? Actually I think that's what the author does with the subtitle!
To me it has the gritty feel of a Clint Eastwood Western.

In this collectors edition there are some very illuminating writings/interviews/explanations from the author which really add to the interest and give it even extra depth....and thanks in no small part to this, I now have a real appreciation,love of and interest in the music!

A brilliant book...I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in either Graphic Novels, good stories or Klezmer, but I think it would really grab the interest of and be hugely appreciated by, musicians who had never heard of Klezmer before.

I can't wait for the 2nd part!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jim Palmer on December 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Damn those Europeans anyhow. They have a real nasty knack for taking a good old American art form, like rock and roll or comic books, and doing better with it than the Yanks. Almost since the comic's inception, the Europeans recognized the comic's potential to appeal to adults, but in the land of its birth, the comic never really got beyond its Kid Stuff label, and only recently has the art form gotten past the seventh grade.

Klezmer cemented Joann Sfar in the constellation of my favorite comics creators. This rollicking tale of a bunch of misfit musicians who end up thrown together by circumstances as a traveling Klezmer troupe is proof positive, if any be needed, that the comic book is just an effective vehicle for serious storytelling as the novel, which Klezmer could easily have been. Sfar's squiggly visual style juxtaposes seamlessly with his subject matter to create a fantastical Jewish Eastern Europe rendered dreamlike by his tone, style, and the fact that it no longer exists.

His characters, likewise, are brilliantly, earthily alive. Sfar's done his homework--Isaac Deutscher once wrote that the Jewish heretic is a part of Jewish tradition, and Sfar's Yaacov, an impish little apikoyres kicked out of his yeshiva for petty theft, is as perfect an evocation of that archetypal figure as I've ever read about. I can't wait to follow his troupe's further adventures (God grant that there are some) and Sfar's future work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kineret WillowGreene on November 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is delightful graphic novel with pictures and story by Joann Sfar. It's the first installment (of a two-part story, I believe) based on tales from the Ashkenazic side of Sfar's family. It is an adventure tale where a variety of characters meet-up and form a Klezmer Band w/ this volume closing on the verge of the band's "big break." This volume stands fairly well on it's own but the plot seems a bit anticlimactic. The story is charming, the characters are interesting and there are some very funny parts. Sfar's work is in a league by itself, very European.
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