May 26, 2005
Meow With a French Accent
Comic books aren't just for kids anymore. In both the United States and France, they've been enjoying a popular explosion among readers of all ages.
One of the stars of the explosion in France is Joann Sfar, an enfant terrible whose work has become so popular, that it can be found on the bookshelves of hip intellectuals there.
The prolific Sfar, 33, at last count is the author of 40 different comic-book series, including the wildly popular "Little Vampire" and "Big Vampire." But only two of them -- "Dungeon" and "Little Vampire" -- are available in English, and they have been aimed mainly at young adult readers.
This summer, however, Sfar's profile in the English-speaking world is likely to be raised: The first volume of "The Rabbi's Cat," one of his best-loved series in France, will be released in English by Pantheon Books in August. Translations of "Big Vampire" and "The Tree Man" are in the works.
"The Rabbi's Cat" chronicles the adventures of a talking cat, who lives in Algeria with a rabbi and his daughter. The first volume in the series recounts the cat's desire to have a bar mitzvah. Along the way, it tells the story of how the cat learned to talk -- he ate the parrot -- and how he took on "the rabbi's rabbi," chiding his master's teacher for his narrow, dogmatic approach to Judaism.
When asked about the abundance of Jewish themes and philosophy in his work, Sfar, who was born to an Ashkenazi mother from Ukraine and a Sephardi father from Algeria, says that for him, Judaism isn't "an all-consuming passion" it's just what he knows best. -- Lauren Elkin, Jewish Telegraphic Agency