"Café Shira is 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
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. Avigodor, 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 the Ehrlich’s own experiences over the twenty-five years he devoted to running a café and turning it into 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 two short story collections in Hebrew, 18 Blue and Tuesday and Thursday Mornings. His literary café/bookstore in Jerusalem, Tmol Shilshom, was a haven for avant-garde artists and writers, the site of numerous readings by eminent authors, and inspired books such as Nathan Englander’s For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. Syracuse University Press published his translated collection, Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel, edited by Ken Frieden, in 2013.
Michael Swirsky is an accomplished translator of Hebrew fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His work has been published by the University of Chicago Press, Yale University Press, Houghton Mifflin, the Free Press, the Jewish Publication Society, and Jason Aronson, among others.
5 x 8, 248 pages, 23 color illustrations