Thursday, September 23

Autofiction rules in comics | Babelia

A page from 'Heimat', by Nora Krug.
A page from ‘Heimat’, by Nora Krug.

Choked on literature of the self? Well, some of the most vibrant graphic novels of the year come from there, delving into personal and family memory, sometimes with the subtlety of a backhoe. The genre is everywhere (narrative, theater, cinema …), although nothing like social networks to manufacture caramelized self-fiction. The comic has been exploring that path for decades. It is legitimate to wonder if there is still something new under this sun. They will see that yes.

Nora Krug has achieved in homeland (Salamandra Graphic) a relentless and delicate work on the political, social and military entanglement of his family in the Third Reich and his own guilt. Autofiction and Nazism: impossible to put together two more commercial trends. However, the comic reveals truth everywhere. A narrative that progresses as the author reveals unknown aspects of the past while delving into her German identity: shame, dissimulation, melancholy, homeland (which translated in short means homeland and in long it defines the sense of belonging to a culture, it is incarnated in a forest or in some Christmas cookies). Married to a New York Jew, Krug visits archives in the towns where her grandparents were born; he meets with relatives, neighbors and historians; she buys old objects and photos at flea markets, draws a nostalgia notebook with things of Germanic solidity: Uhu glue, Hansaplast dressings or Gall-Seife soap.

One reads as if she were spying through the keyhole, peering inside the tormented soul (is there anything more German than a tormented soul?) Of the author, caught between the desire to enjoy an identity (the right to nostalgia ) and remorse inherited from the Hitler days. The narrative relegates the classic vignette structure, reserved for specific episodes, and unfolds in a heterodox format that mixes photographs, documents, school notebooks, drawings and calligraphies (and yes, fonts can have evocative power).

Jorge González and Paco Roca also reveal a part of their family album in Flare (ECC) y Back to Eden (Astiberri). They may not start from a past as traumatic as that of the German, but each family hides its tragedies and dysfunctions in the closet. González rescues the story of his grandfather, the glory of soccer in the neighborhoods of Avellaneda, known as Llamarada because of his red hair. In jumps without chronological order, the Argentine cartoonist introduces himself, his father and his children in an album made with pencils and silences, which explores father-child relationships and the relevance of maintaining chains of transmission between generations. Paco Roca’s trip is the culmination of an intimate project that woke up after his father’s death in Home, that this summer gave her her first Eisner (Emma Ríos received another for her cover for Beautiful death. The rat). Now the biography of his mother serves to portray the crushed generation of the Spanish postwar era, whose main act of heroism was to survive.

Exotic family memory is in My hundred demons (Reservoir Books), a colorful graphic autobiography of Lynda Barry, daughter of Filipino immigrants to the United States, and a painful personal exploration of Gabrielle Bell’s experiences in Everything is flammable (The Dome). Finally, two more self-fictions: Something strange happened to me on the way home (Astiberri), where Miguel Gallardo recounts his experience with cancer in this cursed year, and We will always be 20 years old (Norma), where Jaime Martín closes his family trilogy now with his generation as the protagonist of the comic. Those who chose to tell the lives of others include Sybille Titeux de la Croix and Amazing Améziane, who reconstructed the struggle of activist Angela Davis in Miss Davis (Flow Press), a hard-hitting and timely album in the year Black Lives Matter rebounded.

Another rising trend was the graphic reformulation of successful works. Homeland (Planeta Cómic) continued its unstoppable expansion into other formats: Toni Fejzula makes an effort of synthesis in his adaptation to the comic and plays with colors to identify characters. He best seller Yuval Noah Harari International on the Origin of Humanity (16 million copies sold) also has a cartoon version, Sapiens. A graphic history (Debate), thanks to Daniel Casanave and David Vandermeulen. For her part, Eugènia Anglès achieves a powerful visual display based on Antony Beevor’s essay The Second World War (Past & Present), condensed into 2,000 illustrations.

Similarly, literature is behind the latest works by Isabel Greenberg and Santiago García and Javier Olivares, although they are original projects. The British published in early 2020 The glass city (Impedimenta), a recreation of the imaginary worlds of childhood and youth of the Brönte sisters. Another valuable album from a cartoonist who almost never disappoints. If in Las Meninas García and Olivares took a successful risk in Anger (Astiberri) confirm that they are the most powerful artistic couple in Spanish comics with a graphic prodigy that transmits the energy, strength and determination of Achilles and other classic heroes.

There were, of course, suggestive fictions of all styles and conditions. Thrillers as the starring Cassandra Darke (Salamander Graphic), a con artist, cynical and misanthropic gallerist, Posy Simmonds, the lady of British comics; he noir Celtic of Miguelanxo Prado around an archaeological plot in The pact of lethargy (Norma), or the intrigue about political corruption in I liar (Norma), by Antonio Altarriba and Keko. Felipe Hernández Cava and Antonia Santolaya investigate the fanaticism of the day before yesterday in From Trastevere to paradise (Reservoir Books), a comic of subtle watercolors and terrorist follies around the Red Brigades. And he also talks about political struggles and police repression The difficult tomorrow (Astiberri), by Eleanor Davis, an author of the American alternative comic raised by this work, Ignatz award for the best story of 2020. The review of the author’s comic can conclude with Through (Pípala), Tom Haugomat’s silent book, which narrates the existence of a man based on what happens behind windows, screens, hatches or binoculars. The river of life without words.

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