Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Rabbi's Cat 2

This, I think, is a product of good hype from Lee.  If memory serves, he was one of the voices saying that Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat was a great read.   He wasn't wrong.  Unless he wasn't one of those voices, in which case I'm giving him credit he doesn't deserve.

Anyway, I bought The Rabbi's Cat during a sale at Cards, Comics and Collectibles.  I'm pretty sure I wrote up a review about it somewhere along the line.

Now I have The Rabbi's Cat 2.  Another sale purchase and another excellent buy.  In fact, I'd say this one is better than the first.

The premise, for those who don't recall, is that the Rabbi Sfar, living in Algiers in the 1930s, has a talking cat.  Only some people can hear the cat's words, with the rest only hearing meow.  Somewhere along the line the Rabbi has gotten caught up in his duties as Rabbi and the travails of his daughter's marriage to a young rabbi from France.  As a result, he lost the ability to understand the nameless cat.  By the end of this volume he regains that ability.

The best part of this volume is the epic trek undertaken by Rabbi Sfar, his cousin who's an imam, a refugee Jew from Russian, an expatriate swashbuckler from Russia, and the cat.  Oh, and the imam's donkey is brought along, too, but he doesn't talk to people.  They're on a mission to drive in a half-track from Algiers to Ethiopia to find a lost tribe of black Jews who've never seen white Jews.  The impetus for this is the refugee who has had himself shipped in a crate of books whose destination was Ethiopia but instead wound up in Algiers.  The communists turned out to be no better for Jews than the imperialists who ruled Russia previously.

Along the way the swashbuckler is killed in a fight with nomads, which he unwisely instigated, and the refugee finds love with an African woman who was once a slave but was working in a bar when they met.

For most of the story the refugee understands the cat, and vice versa, but because the Rabbi no longer understands the cat, the cat can't interpret for him.  The swashbuckler does the job until he's killed, and by that point the refugee has learned a good bit of Arabic. 

As with the first book there's a lot of humor in the cat's observations of these people whose language he understands but who mostly don't understand him.  Having one human who does gives him a sounding board and give and take to his observations.  Where the first volume used the Rabbi to that end, this one uses the refugee. 

This volume was published in 2008, so hopefully there's a third volume, and maybe even a fourth, out there that's been translated to English (as there are at least 5 French volumes and a movie).  And yes, the cat that's the hero of the books is based on a real cat the author owns.  It's that ugly, too.  There's a picture of the author with his cat on the dust jacket.

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