Cover art for Yiddish for Pirates

Yiddish for Pirates

15 ratings

Summary

Short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and nominated for the Governor-General's Award for Literature, a hilarious, swashbuckling, yet powerful tale of pirates, buried treasure, and a search for the Fountain of Youth, told in the ribald, philosophical voice of a 500-year-old Jewish parrot. Set in the years around 1492, Yiddish for Pirates recounts the compelling story of Moishe, a Bar Mitzvah boy who leaves home to join a ship's crew, where he meets Aaron, the polyglot parrot, who becomes his near-constant companion. From a present-day Florida nursing home, this wisecracking yet poetic bird guides us through a world of pirate ships, Yiddish jokes, and treasure maps. But Inquisition Spain is a dangerous time to be Jewish, and Moishe joins a band of hidden Jews trying to preserve some forbidden books. He falls in love with a young woman, Sarah; though they are separated by circumstance, Moishe's wanderings are motivated as much by their connection as by his quest for loot and freedom. When all Jews are expelled from Spain, Moishe travels to the Caribbean with the ambitious Christopher Columbus, a self-made man who loves his creator. Moishe eventually becomes a pirate and seeks revenge on the Spanish while seeking the ultimate booty: the Fountain of Youth. This outstanding New Face of Fiction is filled with Jewish takes on classic pirate tales - fights, prison escapes, and exploits on the high seas - but it's also a tender love story between Moishe and Sarah and between Aaron and his "shoulder", Moishe. Rich with puns, colourful language, postcolonial satire, and Kabbalistic hijinks, Yiddish for Pirates is also a compelling examination of mortality, memory, identity, and persecution from one of this country's most talented writers.

©2017 Gary Barwin (P)2017 Penguin Random House Canada

Length: 10 hrs and 59 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted

Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted

Summary

A middle-aged Jewish man who fantasizes about being a cowboy goes on an eccentric quest across Europe after the 1941 Nazi invasion of Lithuania in this wild and witty yet heartrending novel from the best-selling author of Yiddish for Pirates, shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Motl is middle-aged, poor, nerdy, Jewish, and in desperate need of a shave. Since having his balls shot cleanly off as a youth in WWI, he's lived a quiet life at home in Vilnius with his shrewd and shrewish mom, Gitl, losing himself in the masculine fantasy world of cowboy novels by writers like Karl May - novels equally loved by Hitler, whose troops have just invaded Lithuania and are out to exterminate people like Motl. In his dreams, Motl is a fast-talking, rugged, expert gunslinger capable of dealing with the Nazi threat. But only in his dreams. As friends and neighbors are killed around them, Motl and Gitl escape from Vilnius, saving their own skins. But they immediately risk everything to try rescue relatives they hope are still alive. With death all around him, Motl decides that a Jew's best revenge is not only to live, but to procreate. In order to achieve this, though, he must relocate those most crucial pieces of his anatomy lost to him in a glacier in the Swiss Alps in the previous war. It's an absurd yet life-affirming mission, made even more urgent when he's separated from his mother and isn't sure whether she's alive or dead. Joining forces, and eventually hearts, with Esther, a Jewish woman whose family has been killed, Motl ventures across Europe, a kaleidoscope of narrow escapes and close encounters with everyone from Himmler, to circus performers, double agents, quislings, fake "Indians", and real ones. Motl at last figures out that he has more connection to the Indigenous characters in Western novels than the cowboys. An imaginative and deeply felt exploration of genocide, persecution, colonialism, and masculinity - saturated in Gary Barwin's sharp wit and perfect pun-play - Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy is a one-of-a-kind novel of sheer genius.

©2021 Gary Barwin (P)2021 Penguin Random House Canada

Available on Audible