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Tales of the Wild East

(Klezmer #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  537 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Klezmer tells a wild tale of love, friendship, survival, and the joy of making music in pre-World War II Eastern Europe. The Baron of My Backside is perfectly content as the leader of a traveling klezmer band, until his bandmates are brutally murdered. He sets out for Odessa alone, inconsolable even after he is joined by Chava, a beautiful girl with a voice like an angel. ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by First Second (first published November 1st 2005)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  537 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Steve Hersh
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Joann Sfar is so cool. This book, while not as good as The Rabbi's Cat, really grew on me. I like the art a lot and I love the rag-tag group of musicians that Sfar assembles. I am hoping that subsequent volumes are translated into English!
Abi (The Knights Who Say Book)
That's the ending? I feel cheated. Actually a cute, sometimes funny, beautifully-illustrated graphic novel, but stars off for the g***y slur, used repeatedly.
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
There's a really great balance between lighthearted and dark in this book, but despite horrible things happening, the characters keep a... maybe not exactly "positive " outlook, but they don't dwell on these things. They keep moving forward, living however they have to. From reading the fairly extensive backmatter by Sfar (which is one of the best things about the book overall) I'd guess that this is meant as sort of a larger comment on the Jewish experience in Europe to some extent, in addition ...more
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
So why do I love French comics? A roving Klezmer band gets slaughtered by a rival town band, worried about competition in the first few pages: that's why I like French comics. I'm very often surprised.

The story, while interesting, is not phenomenal in itself, but the author's notes at the end were especially compelling as he compared these characters to those in his Rabbi's Cat books. Explained one of the characters as like the cat, but "no longer afraid of hurting the one's he loves." Short
Eric Orchard
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
Every time I read a book by Sfar I'm just blown away by his versatility, storytelling skills and drawing that seems to leap from the page. This comic is wonderful, I can't recommend it highly enough.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Sep 11, 2012 marked it as maybe-read-sometime
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: saw it in a HPB
Shelves: comics
Nice art style, but whoa. Downer beginning.
Apr 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: loeg-archives
Sfar says in the afterword to this book that The Rabbi's Cat was inspired by tales from his father's family, the African Jewish side. Klezmer comes from his mother's side, the eastern European Jews. The story follows a group of wandering musicians of various backgrounds and religious beliefs, each learning to play traditional Jewish music in order to make a living as they move from village to village. It's very philosophical and intelligent, a little slow, light on plot, but very intriguing. I'm ...more
Maria Łepkowska
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Amazing storytelling and lots of useful explanations of the cultural background, complete with the names of the songs used in the story.

The drawing style, however, is very expressive, even for Sfar, to a point where it's almost unintelligible. I usually enjoy his sketchy, sloppy drawings, but this is a bit much.
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
i really enjoyed the art style and use of color but i’m a fool and can’t read cursive and also some parts made me feel a little uncomfortable
There are handwritten notes at the end but they aren't annoying and preachy like Chester Brown's.
Daniel Krolik
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and surprising tale, with a set of author's notes that border on the incendiary. I really loved this first volume, but can't seem to find the subsequent volumes in English.
Chelsea Martinez
Dec 23, 2018 rated it liked it
My favorite part of this book, no dig against the story itself, was the end matter the author includes about their journey to making the comic.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first encountered Sfar through The Rabbi's Cat. I love love klezmer music, so this was a no-brainer. This feels like a series (is this a series?) and I want to see the further adventures of the musicians! I really appreciate the Q&A at the end of the book because Sfar details what songs are referenced/performed in the story, along with recommendations for particular recordings. I need to do more research now.
Apr 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-nongenre
These characters--all itinerant musicians--live in a world that is openly hostile to them, yet also offers opportunities and a vagabond type of freedom. It's set in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth (?) century. Our lead characters are four Jews and one Gypsy. Both of those peoples were numerous and well established in the region, but definitely oppressed minorities.

There's something about the tragic religiosity of some Jewish traditions that really appeals to me. It doesn't avoid or whitewash
Feb 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
Book #10 for 2014: This is a story about Jews pre-World War II in Eastern Europe. The story's sadness is masked by the watercolor and music. I enjoyed reading this musical graphic novel.

Favorite Lines:

And that I grow up with this worrisome thought: that humanist ideals and utopias of equality for all citizens are revocable at any time. (IX)

It's like the black person whose ancestors were slaves a very long time ago and who still feels the chains from time to time. Not out of paranoia. Not always
Jul 10, 2008 rated it liked it
The plot is totally pleasant, but the art annoys me enough to make me dock it a star. That is: the plot's not pleasant enough to overcome my habitual dislike of flowy, messy, free-spirited, blobby art, even if it is colorful. In the back, Sfar references Sempe, and although he says he's not trying to do that, it reminds me of his stuff and also of Saul Steinberg, who's acclaimed but really not my style. It makes me think of New Yorker covers I look immediately past and, sometimes, of long ...more
Jason Furman
Oct 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Klezmer is a short graphic novel set in what Joann Sfar calls the "Wild East," Eastern Europe about a century ago. It tells of a disparate group of misfits who come together to form a klezmer band. One is the only survivor of an ambush of his musical troop, one a runaway bride, two of them are rabbinical students thrown out of their yeshiva, and the final is a gypsy. The group only gets together in the end when they all meet each other in Odessa, which launches a "to be continued" for the second ...more
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the Eastern European Jewish story, whereas the Rabbi's cat is the Algerian Jewish story (the author, Joann Sfar, has parents from both sides... and interestingly has said that the Algerian Jews are more attuned to God-talk and God-thought (surrounded by Muslims?) and the Eastern European Jews more to do with tradition and survival, not really surprising. But Sfar is a wonderful storyteller and brings his characters to life, with humor and serious pathos at the same time, along with these ...more
Thomas Andrikus
Jul 04, 2013 rated it liked it
What an odd graphic novel!

The fact that numerous people die tragically in the story even in the first few pages may lead one to dismiss it as another tragic history of the Jewish people. However, soon enough, one would discover that Klezmer is beyond that.

The drawing is a bit of chaos, but I guess such is the author Joann Sfar's style.

Somehow, the story goes between the introduction of individual characters before finally converging at the point where they are to play together as a band.

Aug 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
"I believe God loves those moments when we do without him." --Joann Sfar.

Another reason to adore Joann Sfar is his _Klezmer: Book One: Tales of the Wild East_. With light, quick hand and wit Sfar paints the tale of a ragged band of musicians and Yeshiva dropouts who sing folk songs as they travel from village to village. Their destination: Odessa, where an exotic, wealthy woman hires them to play at her mansion. Another set of hilarious, splotchy drawings illuminate the pages of _Klezmer_. The
Jul 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is probably the best written, most involving book by Joann Sfar (though one could probably never call his books "involving" as their appeal usually lies in their utterly laid back, relaxed attitude) but it doesn't matter. The man has such a glorious way about his art that most of his books will rate highly with me. Still it doesn't hurt that he's a great writer of comics. This one is probably a 3 star one from me. Not as great as The Rabbi's Cat or as fun as Dungeon, but still, it is a) ...more
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sfar yet again shows us people's cruelty and tenderness, their playfulness, craftiness, their hard edges. I am no longer surprised by his ability to dive into the human condition through his varied Jewish background; he's spoiled me on it and set the bar for most of the rest of what I read these days. All of the characters have a richness about them, a realness. I was intrigued that Yaacov had so much in him of the cat from "The Rabbi's Cat." I thought myself clever for noticing, and then Sfar ...more
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Ashkenazi flip side of The Rabbi's Cat. The visual style is a little looser (maybe intentionally Chagallesque) and the plot is sort of a "Seven Samurai" homage. I can imagine this book (with the cartoon full-frontal nudity) titillating Sam in 10 years. So, Sam Of The Future, I hereby consign this to the bookshelf for you to discover in years to come. You're welcome.

Now go listen to some klezmer music.
Mikael Kuoppala
Oct 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Joann Sfar has delved into his North African heritage in the acclaimed series “The Rabbi’s Cat,” so it’s only natural for him to do the same with his Eastern European roots. Klezmer dives into the history of the region, offering a road trip kind of story structure with many different colourful characters. The feel is very much like that in “The Rabbi’s Cat,” but Klezmer does have its own distinctive flavour.
Mar 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Another fun book from Sfar -- can this guy slow down? Prolific -- and good -- two things that I think are very hard to accomplish. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it's the first in a series -- I thought it was a stand-alone story and then it's "to be continued". Not a bad thing, unless you're not expecting it going in.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
A promising start to a new series. I liked the story, although it's more of a launch pad for the rest of the series, but actually preferred the Q&As with Safar at the end of the book. Also, I didn't like the style of illustrations (semi-abstract watercolours) as much as the illustrations in The Rabbi's Cat.
sweet pea
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-content
this book features an appealing cast of outcasts who haphazardly band together to form a band. the story is excellent and evokes an eastern europe long gone. the illustrations are fairly inchoate and often feature improbably bright colors. which keeps things interesting. the book just ends. which is fairly cruel as the rest of the series hasn't been translated into english yet.
I love Joann Sfar. This is a great graphic story about Klezmer music by an amazing Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish artist. There is an interesting interview in the back where he also talks about his identity and politics--all good stuff!
Apr 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, moving, and totally interesting. I enjoyed both the graphic novel part and the wee little essays at the back. My only complaint is that Parts 2 and 3 haven't been translated into English yet!
Nov 13, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphicnovels
Eh. I was hoping for something more like Fiddler on the Roof, I suppose. Klezmer being the Jewish musical tradition. But I didn't like the characters, and hated the drawing style, it's all squiggles that you can hardly make out. Not my thing.
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Joann Sfar (born August 28, 1971 in Nice) is a French comics artist, comic book creator, and film director.

Sfar is considered one of the most important artists of the new wave of Franco-Belgian comics. Many of his comics were published by L'Association which was founded in 1990 by Jean-Christophe Menu and six other artists. He also worked together with many of the new movement's main artists, e.g.

Other books in the series

Klezmer (5 books)
  • Bon anniversaire Scylla (Klezmer, #2)
  • Tous des voleurs ! (Klezmer, #3)
  • Trapèze volant! (Klezmer, #4)
  • Kishinev-des-fous (Klezmer, #5)
“I believe God loves those moments when we do without him.” 5 likes
“Dnešní Francie není zemí rovných příležitostí, rasismus je zde krutou realitou, jako ostatně všude jinde na světě. Ale hulákat, že se nezměnila od dob kolonializmu, je jako poplivat památku těch, kteří skutečně pod vládou koloniálního imperializmu trpěli.” 0 likes
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