22 December 2007

Edgardo Cozarinsky, The Moldavian Pimp, 2004

Early 20th century Jewish theatre in Buenos Aires sounds like one of those arcane subjects one can only readily learn about from piecing together clues provided by forgotten theatre programmes and cuttings from old newspapers, and that is what Cozarinsky has had to do to tell the fictional story of a Yiddish musical comedy, ‘The Moldavian Pimp’, and the complex, hidden lives of the people associated with it. Its inevitable backdrop is the Jewish criminal organisation Zwi Migdal, which operated out of Buenos Aires and imported East European women into Argentina to work as prostitutes, often under the guise of them also working in theatre and music. Necessarily it’s a story about corruption, sex, money, love and survival, but Cozarinsky’s documentary style of storytelling does not rely on drama and superfluous words to bring his subject matter alive; instead, possibly because of the deliberate scarcity of dialogue, he prefers The Moldavian Pimp to serve more as a document on a largely unwritten twilight world of Jewish diaspora history. A quietly fascinating read, one that succeeds in engaging the curiosity about this hidden corner of Jewish history.   PY

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