Monday, January 31, 2011

Years of the elephant

Willy Linthout
Years of the elephant

Fanfare\Ponent Mon, 2009

Linthout wrote this book as self therapy when at the age of 21 years old, his son committed suicide. It can be considered autobiographical: in the book alter-ego of the author, Charles Germonprez, too, loses his son, springing from the roof, tries to cope with the loss, tries to soften the pain of loss, has insomnia, visits a psychoanalyst, wants to commit suicide, but the author to reality full of pain, loss, despair adds a solid amount of surrealism, and so «Years of the elephant» is only half non-fiction, the second half of the graphic novel is a strange prose.

Book would have been impossible to write, if the author did not have a fair amount of self-irony. Germonprez here is a funny man in glasses, all the while wearing a sweater and with a tuft on his head. He must have been modest and awkward before the death of his only son, was a good family man, but the tragedy distressed him. He became nervous, he couldn't the focus on something else, it throws him into tears, then into anger, but whatever he wished, his thoughts are inextricably linked with his son.

When you notice while reading this book, that you laughed once, twice, and then smiled, at first you stop laughing: whether it is good to laugh, when a person has sorrow? But soon you can't do anything about that: it's very funny. And the author did it on purpose: laughing at yourself, it is possible to overcome the sadness and suffering.

Surreal story amplifies with good art. The fact that the entire book is drawn in pencil, but Linthout left pencil sketches without erasing. Critic Paul Gravett in the preface to the book writes that in such a way Linthout wanted to show that these drawings with their incompleteness has human hand and heart. I see in such sketch style another method: unpolished pencil lines stratify each subject in the book and every person. So in addition to surreal moments when, for example, Germonprez tries to lay on the place circled in chalk outline of the body of the son or Germonprez communicates with his son, using Morse code, such layering adds a surrealistic tint. The alter ego of the author not only losing his mind because of the tragedy, but he also splits.

«Years of the elephant» is a brave book, in which the author was not afraid to put on the language of comics his personal tragic experience. And just for this we should applaud Linthout for hours.

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