Yiddish for Pirates

Yiddish for Pirates

Being An Account of Moishe the Captain, His Meshugeneh Life & Astounding Adventures, His Sarah, the Horizon, Books & Treasure, as Told by Aaron, His African Grey

Book - 2016
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Random House, Inc.

Shortlisted 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, post-colonial 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.



Publisher: Toronto : Random House Canada, c2016
ISBN: 9780345815514
Branch Call Number: FIC BAR
Characteristics: 342 p. ;,25 cm.

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Benrobinson4
Jun 27, 2017

A hilarious Yiddish riff on classics like Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island. I found the Yiddish was manageable even without any background in the language. It's often used in reference to various body parts that are being threatened, so perhaps the lack of clarity is best if you're at all squeamish. The narrative is very inventive with some uniquely Barwin moments and none of the over-description present in the aforementioned classics.

m
markd
Feb 20, 2017

It was different and fun. It was a good "long weekend" book.

a
angsqu
Jan 23, 2017

Less than a quarter into this book I was wondering why on Earth it was so lauded by critics and won the Giller prize. A surprising amount of Yiddish from a near east London upbringing remained in my head. For those without such background you are left swinging to guess the meaning and even when told had better remember or else! The smuttiness is that of pre-pubescent boys and largely superfluous to the story which could have been written in a third of the space. The writer should stick to children's stories.
Politically correct critical acclaim does not serve the public and may dissuade them reading.

d
duderino470
Jan 23, 2017

Profound. Hilarious. Beautiful.

e
Estha
Jan 10, 2017

Wow, what a feat of writing. Think Jewish stand-up comic with sometimes foul mouth telling an adventure tale without sugar-coating atrocities and suffering. The language is dense and emotional, setting us in a Yiddish culture and world where bad things happen to good people. But the adventure pulled me along, delighted by the punning, wit, jokes and references. Lots to ponder too. P.S. The Yiddish phrases are translated, in the very next sentence. Individual words not so much.

m
Margush
Dec 22, 2016

No stars for this book. It's peppered with so many words in Yiddish. There could be up to 3-4 of them in one sentence with no translation. It's hard to focus on the content that has constant gaps because you don't speak that language. I gave up on page 23. And I didn't find it funny at all. I actually wanted to close the book on page 5, after reading about "full moon ....pus coloured" that streaked "semen-silver across....sea"...what? The colour of pus would be the last thing I imagine while looking at full moon. Not interested.

d
Dorie
Aug 11, 2016

Has to be one of the funniest books I've read in awhile. All from the point of view of a parrot. Cheekiest parrot of all time. I am somewhat familiar with Yiddish words so that helped, but I've actually laughed out loud a few times.

KateHillier May 03, 2016

This novel is narrated by a parrot. A parrot who speaks many languages, one of which is Yiddish. My command of Yiddish is non existent aside from the odd phrase/word picked up however so catching a rhythm where words weren't defined was a little difficult at first but, much like starting A Clockwork Orange, I got it. Aaron the parrot is a fascinating narrator, a little bit more fascinating that the story he tells but only just. Aaron tells you of "his shoulder", Moishe, a Jewish boy who runs away, has adventures, and becomes a pirate. This is all during the Spanish Inquisition by the way. In Spain. Not a good place for Moishe.

It's a fascinating book to read because it's really something new and interesting. The perspective and the story is also done differently too. Hearing something new is always a fun thing.

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Harriet_the_Spy Dec 16, 2016

Harriet_the_Spy thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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