Sunday, August 28, 2011

Joann Sfar (August 28, 1971)

Joann Sfar, French graphic novelist (The Rabbi’s Cat) and film maker (Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life), questions authority, though he’s evidently conventionally religious. So also does the cat in his tale. Suddenly able to speak, the cat demands to learn Jewish law, have a bar mitzvah, and study Kabbalah. He has long disputes with his owner, the rabbi, and the rabbi's own master rabbi -- who says a talking philosophical cat should be drowned. It's a very funny book, with beautiful drawings of North Africa in some former time, where the rabbi and his daughter live.

In an interview several years ago, Sfar said:
“My rabbi is not a modern guy. He’s very old-fashioned. He’s not an intellectual—his relationship with religion is very down-to-earth. He doesn’t really care about God’s existence. He just cares about what he has to do every day. I like the idea of his coming back from Paris and saying that he doesn’t know if there’s a God or not, and then he goes to pray. Many people forget about this relationship to religion as a daily practice. But I’ve always preferred the sayings of my grandma to the dictates of my grand rabbin.”
I hope to see Sfar's new documentary on French singer Serge Gainsbourg, whom I've heard of but never have known anything about.

Update: New York Times review of the film is here.

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