"An intimate Jerusalem classic, a sweet, sad, lovely little gem of a book."—Michael Weingrad, Portland State University
"This is a truly remarkable and remarkably successful literary experiment, to ‘translate’ a café into a novel."—Naomi Seidman, University of Toronto
"David Ehrlich’s Café Shira places us somewhere we think we know, but don’t, with strangers we feel we can’t know, but do. People afflicted with Eros, ambition, daydreams, conventions—people resenting sisters, or lovers, or mirrors; people trying to find happiness and worried about trying too hard. Jerusalem, under Ehrlich’s hand, is comfortably exotic. But no more consequential than the cafe’s salads, notebooks, and tips. A quiet masterpiece."—Bernard Avishai, author of The Hebrew Republic
"Café Shira is at once a portrait of inner struggle, yearning, the mysterious synergy of coffee and literary creativity, shifting narrative perspective, playful magical realism (as in the ability of the protagonist Rutha, a waitress in the cafe, to hear her customers' thoughts!), and, above all, love -- together with the loneliness, desire, and fulfillment that surrounds it. Richly imagined and movingly narrated, evocatively and crisply translated, this is a beautiful book to be treasured and savored!"—Eitan Fishbane, author of Embers of Pilgrimage: Poems, The Art of Mystical Narrative, and Shadows in Winter
New to Jerusalem and to adulthood, Rutha serves Café Shira’s devoted customers with a quiet compassion and a sensitive gaze, collecting their stories and absorbing them at her peril. Avigdor, the melancholy and somewhat weary café owner, philosophizes about love as he attends to the needs of his patrons while ignoring his own. Christian, a young religious pilgrim, has come to Jerusalem to find God but stumbles upon a much different revelation. These characters form the heart of this wry, often poignant novel narrated through a series of vignettes. They are joined by a colorful cast of characters who frequent the literary café—long-married couples, young lovers, an eccentric poet, and a traumatized veteran—all finding refuge and occasionally wisdom among their motley urban community.
Closely based on Ehrlich’s own experiences over the twenty-five years he devoted to running a café that became an important Jerusalem cultural venue and landmark, Café Shira is a work of disarming tenderness and bittersweet love.
David Ehrlich (1959–2020) was the author of three short story collections, Blue 18, Tuesday and Thursday Mornings, and Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel. His literary café and bookstore, Tmol Shilshom, is a haven for avant-garde artists and writers, and the site of numerous readings by eminent authors.
Michael Swirsky is a translator of Hebrew fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His work has been published by the University of Chicago Press, Yale University Press, Houghton Mifflin, and the Free Press, among others.
With an Introduction by Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi.
5 x 8, 224 pages, 22 color illustrations