Winner of the Best Foreign Graphic Album at the Angoulème Festival in Belgium and recently translated into English from the original French text, this version of the traditional Jewish legend of the Golem is innovative for me, a person who has collected these legends for a long time.

Inspired by oral stories told to the author by his grandmother, the story follows young Malka and her family from the pogroms of the Russian shtetl to the Argentine pampas to better their living conditions at the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, things are not much improved for them in this new scorched country. A visit from the prophet Elias to Malka’s uncle results in the creation of a Golem to aid and protect the new comers. Their mythical Golem, created from the earth, resembles a human and lives among the people as a neighbor peacefully for many years.

As time passes, however, another danger emerges when the Golem aids the family in taking an ill child, on the recommendation of their doctor, to the indigenous Old Wise Medicine Woman, Tomasa. The child is fine but the Golem and Tomasa’s young niece, Rosita, notice each other. Events escalate when Tomasa prepares a love potent which backfires horrifically. The Golem murders Rosita and then, running amuck as the Golem often does in the variants of these legends, he continues his murderous journey. Years later Malka, now an adult, meets Elias and is told the Golem’s story and instructed on how to destroy the monster who has continued his murderous journey as a bodyguard to corrupt politicians and gangsters.

The story is equally violent and hopeful, with a wide and vivid array of brightly and menacingly illustrations ardently activating this powerful tale. The imaginative layout and strong artwork bring, simultaneously, a historical time alive and subtly highlights the relevancy to today’s political environment. All while reworking one of the most powerful Jewish legends and breathing fresh air into its creation.

Prefacing the story is an essay by the author describing the genesis of his story and a concise history of the Jewish journey from Russia to a land of promise. There are also numerous sketches, figure studies, and full page watercolor paintings that follow the story itself, enclosing the hardcover graphic novel in a circle of love, memory, tragedy and hope.
Highly recommended.

The Silence of Malka
by Jorge Zentner
Art by Rubén Pellejero
ISBN: 9781684052875
IDW, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta

    Reviewer

    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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