Nov 4, 2015

The Rabbi's Cat

by Joann Sfar

This graphic novel (for adults) depicts a Jewish household in Algeria, through the eyes of their talking cat. The cat has his own opinions about human behavior and their often odd (in his eyes) habits, which all comes out after he eats a parrot and gains the ability to speak. (Later in the book he looses this ability, but can still communicate with other animals and continues his commentary on the side). So the cat adores his mistress, the rabbi's daughter, but the rabbi doesn't want her influenced by a talking cat who is sarcastic and witty and doesn't flinch at lying when it suits his own ends. The cat insists that he can be a good Jewish cat, if he is taught religious law. The rabbi refuses to teach him. But apparently the cat can already read and has plenty of sources to quote. The cat delightedly pitches himself into arguments with the rabbi, his relatives, colleagues and others- all turning words and logic in upon themselves. Not always to get what he wants, but just to confound everyone it seems. Later in the book the rabbi's daughter gets married and leaves the household, and the cat is upset at being shut out of her new life- which household does he belong to now? In the final chapter the rabbi and his daughter travel to Paris to meet her new husband's family. It turns out this family is not religiously observant, which puts the rabbi into all kinds of turmoil, and after shunning his in-laws' household he searches for a nephew he hasn't seen in years. Miraculously he finds this younger relative, only to discover his nephew also has strayed from Jewish tradition, on a different tangent. It's eye-opening and shameful to the rabbi, who promptly goes off and breaks a bunch of taboos in one fell swoop, to see what will happen. Nothing does. Hm.

I thought I would really like this book, but turns out it was just mildly interesting and the ending did not feel very conclusive. Perhaps the second volume rounds out the story, but I don't feel terribly inclined to pick it up. Also, as a small aside, the cat's thoughts are presented in script, which can be hard to read after a while. I suppose the positive of that is it slows the reader down!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5      142 pages, 2005

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Thistle said...

Sorry to hear it didn't work so well for you! As I was reading your review, I thought I'd really, really love the book -- it sounds just perfect for me.

If I spot it, I'll give it a try, but I won't go out of my way looking for it.

Jeane said...

Well, I'd definitely like to hear what someone else thinks of it! Maybe it was just me. I didn't really care for the artwork too much either, the cat looked awkward in most of the pictures, which detracted from it all for me....

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I canNOT with large sections of script writing in comic books. In most cases I get why the letterers went that direction (or why the authors requested it, whatever the case may be), but it's truly maddening to read. Like when it's sections of letters written by old-fashioned old-time people? Blech.