Words Without Borders’ Year-End and Year-Ahead Lists

December 21st, 2017 § 0 comments


Looking ahead and looking behind, staff, board members, and contributors of the first and still flagship magazine for international literature, Words Without Borders (WWB), share their favorite works-in-translation of 2017 and the titles they’re looking forward to in 2018. Editorial Director Susan Harris names Gébé’s Letter to Survivors, forthcoming next year from New York Review Comics (NYRC). Seven years ago, WWB featured an excerpt  of that very same graphic novel in their annual February comics issue; they’ve also run prose work  by the late cartoonist and satirist, a beloved one-man institution of whimsy.

A haunting and darkly funny post-apocalyptic graphic novel that follows an unusual postal worker on his very bizarre mail route.

In the blasted ruins of what was once a picture-perfect suburb, nothing stirs—except the postman. Clad in a hazmat suit and mounted on a bicycle, he is still delivering the mail, nuclear apocalypse or no nuclear apocalypse. One family has taken refuge in an underground fallout shelter, and to them he brings—or, rather, shouts through the air vent—a series of odd, anonymous letters. They describe the family’s prosperous past life, and then begin to get stranger. . .

This pioneering graphic novel was created in 1981 by famed French cartoonist Gébé, a longtime contributor to Charlie Hebdo, and has never before been available in English. Letter to Survivors is a blackhearted delight, at once a witty metafictional game of stories within stories and a scathing, urgent send-up of consumerist excess and nuclear peril: funnier, and scarier, than ever.

I last collaborated with NYRC on 2016’s well-received Peplum by Blutch. Just as with that book, I’ll be providing a preface to contextualize Gébé for readers in this, his English debut.

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