OUT NOW: The Smell of Starving Boys by Loo Hui Phang and Frederik Peeters

November 16th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

9781910593400_s3 Phang cover

SelfMadeHero is pleased to announce the publication of THE SMELL OF STARVING BOYS by Loo Hui Phang and Frederik Peeters. Laos-born writer Loo Hui Phang pens an intense Western where old and new worlds collide, illustrated by award-winning Frederick Peeters (Blue Pills trans. Anjali Singh;  Pachyderme and the 4-book Aama series, trans. yours truly).

Texas 1872. The Civil War is over, and the entrepreneurial geologist Stingley sets out with disgraced photographer Forrest and mysterious young assistant Milton to document uncharted territories. Entering the hostile region of the native Comanches, they must face the constant threat of attack, but with social conventions disappearing, more intimate relationships develop between Forrest and Milton.

This is the sixth book of Peeters’ I’ve had the pleasure of translating–not counting the 4 as-yet unreleased volumes of Lupus, still forthcoming from Top Shelf–and his second in English from something other than his own script (the first was Sandcastle with Pierre Oscar-Levy, translated by Nora Mahony). Here, Peeters solicited a script from noted Laos-born comics writer Loo Hui Phang. I’m proud to be a continuing part of bringing this star Swiss creator into English.

OUT NOW: The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos

November 8th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


IDW has launched a new line of nonfiction French comics, The Little Book of Knowledge, and this first entry, Tattoos, just hit stores, with informative words by Jerôme Pierrat, editor-in-chief of Tatouage magazine, and lovely, free-flowing art by the largely self-taught Alfred, a very deserving Angouleme Grand Prize winner for Come Prima, which we covered (among other titles) in August 2016 at The Comics Alternative’s Eurocomics podcast.

I think this is a salutary addition to the Eurocomics scene in the U.S., broadening our idea of what’s available from France, what comics can do and are doing abroad. Till now, the scene’s been dominated by the indie cartooning legacy of Persepolis, with some branching into more commercial series. But non-memoir, topical nonfiction comics are gaining ground in France as an effective way to deliver information, as is long-form comics reportage, in fascinating, lushly produced magazines like XXI and La revue dessinee. So it’s terrific to see awareness of that brought stateside.

Check out some preview pages at 13th Dimension. At Rogues Portal, Anelise Farris reviews The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos, concluding:

This is not by any means a light read. However, although the writing is dense at times, the clean art and abundant use of white space helps to alleviate some of the heaviness [...] Verdict: Check it out. The Little Book of Knowledge: Tattoos is… a history of tattooing as an art form. Consequently, this comic will most likely appeal to art historians, cultural studies scholars, and tattoo enthusiasts who don’t mind dry, though nicely illustrated, nonfiction. I also think that this book would be useful in a classroom setting—like a specialized anthropology or art course.

OUT NOW: Magritte: This Is Not a Biography

November 7th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


SelfMadeHero is pleased to announce the publication of MAGRITTE: THIS IS NOT A BIOGRAPHY, a hallucinatory journey through fact, fiction, and the imagination of the landmark Surrealist from the creative team of Belgian writer Vincent Zabus and Italian artist Thomas Campi.

When Charles Singular anticipates promotion by buying a bowler hat, one that was once owned by surrealist Rene Magritte, he find himself transported into the artist’s eccentric world. This is the latest in SelfMadeHero’s acclaimed Art Masters that includes Pablo, Baudoin’s Dalí, Gauguin: The Other World (all translated by yours truly), Munch, and Vincent.

I’ve done a number of biographies for SelfMadeHero now, and the unorthodox approach here made it one of my personal favorites. As  Joe Gordon notes at the Forbidden Planet blog,

This is an approach that wouldn’t really work in a prose biography, but the comics medium can do beautifully; the Ninth Art exploring the world of the fine arts visually, as Charles literally finds himself in the artist’s work. Yes, perhaps cinema could do this visually too, but in comics form we can pause, a still image, just like the paintings, lingering over some panels, allowing ideas and notions to spark against one another in our head as we take it in. This is the sort of work which the comics medium can do better than any other, and here Zabus and Campi clearly understand that, and use it to wonderful effect to explore Magritte’s ouevre.

Lots of lovely preview pages there. Do give it a look!

Majdalani wins Khayrallah Prize

October 18th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


The Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University has awarded Charif Majdalani the Khayrallah Prize for his novel Moving the Palace from New Vessel Press. In its third year, the Khayrallah Prize identifies, awards and publicly honors those whose original artistic productions and projects capture the experiences of Lebanese immigrants, their relationship to Lebanon and their new homes, their communities and peregrinations.

“The Khayrallah Prize has a special resonance because it is conferred by an esteemed research center at the heart of a great university,” Majdalani said of the award.

Khayrallah Center Director Akram Khater says Moving the Palace stands out “because of its rich details and eloquence in exploring an unusual and unexplored part of the Lebanese diasporic experience. Its richness is leavened with humor, with self-deprecating asides and post-modern reminders that this is an imagined history.”


OUT NOW: Josephine Baker by Catel & Bocquet

August 11th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

resize baker cover

SelfMadeHero is delighted to announce the publication of JOSEPHINE BAKER, a new graphic biography by Catel Muller and Jose-Louis Bocquet.

Written and drawn by the creators of the acclaimed Kiki de Montparnasse, this is breezy, mammoth 568-page graphic novel on the life of of the pioneering dancer, French Resistance fighter and civil rights campaigner. With over 100 pages of supplementary background material (translated by Mercedes Gilliom), it is among the most comprehensive biographies of its subject.

Working on this book was an enlightening and tumultuous experience, and I spill some beans about that process in the most recent episode of the monthly Eurocomics podcast at The Comics Alternative. Catel Muller pulls off some first-rate cartooning, capturing the essence of the volatile Josephine in motion, while maintaining admirable clarity as the chronicle of the superstar’s life sweeps through every era of the 20th century. Smash Pages: The Comics Super-Blog, ran a fascinating interview I translated with the creators, where they share stories of their hopes for the book, how it got started, and the extensive visual research they did.

“Motherhoods” by Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse at WWB

August 1st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


This month at Words Without Borders, the short story “Motherhoods” by Rwandan author Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse, in their “New French” issue.

Kubyara indahekana—that is what we say of a woman who has more babies than she can carry on her back at once. My son had the ingobyi,* that tanned leather carrier, all to himself, and he breastfed till he was two. Less overwhelmed than other mothers, I could devote myself to him, teaching him to speak well, singing him lullabies. I even planted a few feet of strawberries by the banana plantation where he spent his afternoons squatting while I shelled peas or sorted beans in the courtyard. People said, “That boy clings to his mother too much. He’ll never be a real man.”


Moving the Palace in the NYT

June 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


In the New York Times, Suzanne Joinson writes:

At a time when the tensions that will produce World War I are simmering but have not yet exploded, Samuel, a Lebanese man who “speaks Arabic but looks like an Englishman,” is asked by an eccentric British colonial administrator to intervene in various tribal battles in the North African desert. During these escapades, he becomes embroiled in a scheme to transplant an entire palace, brick by brick, from Tripoli into the Sahara, in hopes of selling it (or pieces of it) to the region’s rich princes. Thus begins a Middle Eastern heart-of-darkness tale that flows like a dream, occasionally turning nightmarish, but is always rendered with a hypnotic quality beautifully captured in Edward Gauvin’s elegant translation.

Reviews are rolling in for Moving the Palace

April 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Publishers Weekly says: “Majdalani’s writing sparkles… Those looking for an enjoyable and brisk literary adventure will be very satisfied.”

At Bookwitty, M. Lynx Qualey pens this insightful appreciation:

The one thousand pieces hardly seems a coincidence, as Samuel Ayyad is carrier of a sort of 1,001 Nights-esque fantasy, hefting his disassembled story through the desert, to be reassembled elsewhere in a different context, an echo of The Nights’ movement from China and India to Arab lands, and from there to France.

Professor Joe Geha, for North Carolina State University’s Moise A. Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies, calls this:

[a] wildly entertaining novel. By the end Charif Majdalani has joined together all its disparate elements––the elegant and the ironic, the historical and the imagined––to leave us with a renewed sense of wonder.

And for those on their own lengthy odysseys, a 6-hour unabridged audio version read by Jonathan Davis is available.

OUT NOW: Charif Majdalani’s Moving the Palace

March 20th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Today, New Vessel Press releases Charif Majdalani’s award-winning novel Moving the Palacethe third of a trilogy loosely based on his family history, a.k.a. how I spent my last summer vacation: marching through the Lebanese professor’s fictionalization of his grandfather’s WWI escapades. The titular dwelling is teamstered piecemeal camelback through Northern Africa, and I felt, doing my 3000 words a day, involved in a similar long haul of something I was not quite be able to fathom in its entirety until it was reassembled at the end.

Lithub has an excerpt from the novel’s opening chapter, the first paragraph of which I present here:

This is a tale full of mounted cavalcades beneath great wind-tossed banners, of restless wanderings and bloody anabases, he thinks, musing on what could be the first line of that book about his life he’ll never write, and then the click-clack of waterwheels on the canal distracts him; he straightens in his wicker chair and leans back, savoring from the terrace where he’s sitting the silence that is a gift of the desert the desert spreads in its paradoxical munificence over the plantations, the dark masses of the plum trees, the apricot trees, the watermelon fields, and the cantaloupe fields, a silence that for millennia only the click-clack of waterwheels has marked with its slow, sharp cadence. And what I think is, there may or may not be apricot orchards or watermelon fields, but that is most definitely the desert in the background of the photo, the very old photo where he can be seen sitting in a wicker chair, cigar in hand, gazing pensively into the distance, in suspenders, one leg crossed over the other, with his tapering mustache and disheveled hair, the brow and chin that make him look like William Faulkner, one of the rare photos of him from that heroic era, which I imagine was taken in Khirbat al Harik, probably just after he’d come from Arabia, though in fact I’m not at all sure, and really, what can I be sure of, since apart from these few photos, everything about him from that time is a matter of myth or exaggeration or fancy?

Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Naked shortlisted for Albertine Prize

March 17th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink


Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Naked, the final volume of his Marie tetralogy, published last September by Dalkey Archive, has been nominated for the inaugural Albertine Award, an initiative of New York’s French bookstore founded by the Cultural Services of the French Consulate. Watch Eleanor Hutchins read an excerpt in a video coproduced with Bookwitty!