“a phenomenal fusion of artist and subject, as overpowering now as it was when Toppi’s densely textured illustrations were influencing even American superhero comics. (Walt Simonson offers a glowing Toppi appreciation in the new Sharaz-de edition’s foreword, and the more avant-garde impulses of Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz in the ’80s can be traced in part to Toppi.)… Toppi adapted some of the lesser-known tales, some in black-and-white and some in pale, painterly color… his elaborately rendered figures contain entire worlds within each wrinkle and fold. The folkloric nature of the original stories merges with Toppi’s stunning designs, giving Sharaz-de’s art the quality of ancient tapestries, endlessly unrolling.”
W. 11th & Bluff, the official blog of the Adult Services Department at Carnegie-Stout Public Library, Dubuque, Iowa, has a some insightful reactions to reading A Chinese Life. A big shout of thanks to the people of that river city and the Fenelon Place Elevator! I remember riding that one autumn in the last hours of a chili festival during my grad school years in IC.
It is remarkable that a member of the Chinese Communist Party would be so forthcoming, and that this is happening in a graphic novel. To some Westerners though, Li’s depictions of such events may seem more like an apparatchik’s apologia than a critical attempt to understand what happened…
With a subtle mix of humor and sadness, Li examines his strained relationship with his larger-than-life father, describes an awkward moment when he asks his girlfriend if she would pose nude for his drawings, and recalls helping his elderly mother make dumplings.
Besides being a great storyteller, Li’s artwork is brilliant. A Chinese Life is illustrated almost entirely in black and white. The contrast is stark and the composition is striking. Fascinating, energetic lines reveal austere landscapes, earthy villages, and chaotic cities. Characters’ hands and faces are especially expressive. Some of the most compelling panels lack dialogue; they are simple portraits of children at school, soldiers in barracks, villagers in markets, and workers in factories.
Just out as of a week ago, legendary French cartoonist Blutch in his long-overdue, first full-length English language translation. What an honor it was to work on this! Earlier, I’d only been able to smuggle excerpts of the man’s work into print: for instance, “That Was Happiness” at Words Without Borders (with video and critical appreciation by David Varno). I’d love to do Peplum, Mitchum, Blotch, Le Petit Christian, or even Rancho Bravo… here’s hoping they await!
Over at BoingBoing, Craig Thompson interviews the artist who influenced a whole generation (including Thompson himself, whose powerhouse Blankets was, rumor has it, unjustly rejected by L’Association for being to Blutch-like), a veritable one-man indie industry who reinvents himself with every book.
And Noel Murray at The Onion AV Club covers the release in his regular roundup, calling it “the comic-book version of one of Jean-Luc Godard’s cine-essays, ranting about the phoniness of the movies while also damning them for their power to burn images into viewers’ brains.”
A debut not to be missed! Pick it up!
Good news, everyone! A Chinese Life by Li Kunwu and Philippe Ôtié, published by SelfMadeHero last fall, is among the nominees in two categories: “Best-Reality Based Work” and “Best U.S. Edition of International Material – Asia”. With this latter category the Eisners recognize translations, if not quite translators—yet!
Congratulations to the authors! I’m especially delighted because I don’t think this groundbreaking work has gotten the press it deserves yet, and maybe the nomination will push it back into the the public eye.
While Asia certainly deserves its own category, it’s an interesting side note that the only other international category, “Best U.S. Edition of International Material,” is all European, and mostly French. Three of the six nominees are French graphic novels, and of the three remaining, Blacksad, albeit by a Spanish creative team, was written and published in French (leaving only Brecht Evens, the Flemish Belgian cartoonist, and the taciturn Norwegian Jason, who in this case delivers a tribute to Alexandre Dumas).
A full list of nominees can be found at the site for San Diego Comic-Con, which hosts the awards.
The other nominees competing with A Chinese Life are:
Best-Reality Based Work
- Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller, by Joseph Lambert (Center for Cartoon Studies/Disney Hyperion)
- The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, by Frank M. Young and David Lasky (Abrams ComicArts)
- The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, by Julia Wertz (Koyama Press)
- Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me, by Ellen Forney (Gotham Books)
- You’ll Never Know, Book 3: A Soldier’s Heart, by C. Tyler (Fantagraphics)
Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
- Barbara, by Osamu Tezuka (Digital Manga)
- A Chinese Life, by Li Kunwu and P. Ôtié (Self Made Hero)
- Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
- Nonnonba, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
- Thermae Romae, by Mari Yamazaki (Yen Press/Hachette)
It’s an honor to be nominated! Best of luck to all concerned, and a huge round of thanks to the team at SelfMadeHero–always a joy to work with.
I’m happy to report that Last Days of an Immortal from Archaia certainly does live up to the praise, and deserves every bit of your undivided attention. Imported from Europe and adapted for the English speaking audiences, this book is truly an out of this world reading experience, and dare I say one of my favorite graphic novels in recent memory.
I recently presented a paper on Last Days as part of a Graphic Novel Adaptations panel moderated by Isabella Van Elferen at the 34th annual conference of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. It was an extension of thoughts I’d been working on in Henry Jenkins‘ Media Specificity class last fall, first published in a different form at Weird Fiction Review.
Belgian fabulist Paul Willems’ fairy tale “The Colors of the World” (first published last year in Scheherezade’s Bequest #15) is now live at Podcastle, exquisitely read by Clarion West grad Marguerite Croft and generously guest-hosted by Mr. Wilson Fowlie.
Now, on the ninth day, toward evening, as the sun was painting a splendid golden pathway on the waters, Marie heard a marvelous song in the distance and saw, where the golden pathway reached the edge of the waves, a mermaid lying at the water’s edge. She sang of her seaweed castle in the depths of the sea, and of the child playing in its largest hall.
“Mermaid, is that my little girl?”
“Yes it is, your little girl, she’s in my castle at the bottom of the sea.”
“Mermaid, take me there!”
Paul Willems (1912-1997) belongs to the final generation of great Francophone Belgian fantasists of Flemish descent. He published his first novel, Everything Here is Real, in 1941. Three more novels and, toward the end of his life, two collections of short stories bracket his career as a playwright, for which he was best known in his lifetime. Donald Friedman’s translation of his late novella The Drowned Land was nominated for the Dublin IMPAC Literary Award. I’ve also published Mr. Willems’ work in Subtropics and Tin House.
Online among the KR Spring 2013 selections is H.V. Chao’s story “My Father’s Hand”! You can stream or download the author reading the story there as well. A French translation by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud was published earlier this year in Brèves.
I was not trying to fool them, for they were oblivious to me—I was one of them, for all they knew, or not, for all they cared—I was trying to fool myself, as though by standing among them at a corner, waiting for the light to change, a small bag of some warm food swinging from my wrist, I would go back to something very much like what they, short and tall, male and female, smiling or preoccupied, were hurrying home to, in heels, in sandals, in buses, in taxis, on mopeds leaning as they rounded a corner. Then that month came to an end, and I turned thirty alone in a foreign city.
I have mentioned earlier on this blog that Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud translated my story “My Father’s Hand” for the 100th issue of the French revue Brèves. Words Without Borders, the webmag of international literature where Châteaureynaud debuted in the US with my translation of “Delaunay the Broker”, is running a piece by yours truly on what it is like to be translated by an author one translates. Hint: it feels good.
I am a great lover—of women’s apartments. I slip from a stranger’s sheets, it seems, and through a tear in the very fabric of existence to some secret, closely guarded part of their lives. The city is a vast gathering of rooms, like a gallery or palace. In each of these we curate, on shelves and windowsills, the exhibits of our lives, while around us brick and cinderblock wrap themselves in bastions, keeps, apartment buildings, walling out the stranger who, with a last wistful glance, lowers his head and hurries on his lonely way. There is in every bachelor, I think, something of this stranger, who arrives in a city with the sum of his earthly things in a tattered suitcase. Evening is falling on the avenues, the parks and the restaurants, and who are those people in the warm amber light with the wine and the bread and their faces full of laughter?
Please check it out!