Monday, February 6, 2012

"Klezmer" by Joann Sfar

Joann Sfar's Klezmer is a graphic novel about some very unlucky and also rebellious Jews approximately 100 years ago. They wander around, hungry and cold, betrayed by friends or victimized by enemies until they come to where? ODESSA! When I picked up the book I had no idea this was their destiny. Here's Sfar's imaginary scene of the Odessa they see:

As the musicians catch sight of the city, Sfar draws a series of images with quotations from Isaac Babel's description, "Odessa is a horrible town. It's common knowledge that people there butcher the Russian language," he wrote. "And yet I feel that there are quite a few good things one can say about this important town, the most charming city of the Russian Empire. If you think about it, it is a town in which you can live free and easy. Half the population is made up of Jews... "

And here we see how Sfar imagines it. I also enjoyed his quotations from many Klezmer songs, as the musicians entertain first one another, and then begin to perform for audiences in little towns. I also liked the sort of philosophical aspects of the musicians' struggle with their own misfortunes and their lost faith, though sometimes Sfar is a little too clever about this.

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