Honest, who cares about smelly comics shows when you have events like the Graphic Novels from Europe event taking place this week? Seven of the world’s greatest graphic novelists, David B., Nicolas de Crécy, Igort, Jaromír 99, Isabel Kreitz, Max, and Jaroslav Rudiš will be appearing at a variety of events this week, and an art display will be shown until December 12th at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Here’s a list of the events, starting TONIGHT with an interview with Igort:
N O V. 1 7 , 6 PM
Discussion with Igort and exhibition of drawings from his book FIVE IS THE PERFECT NUMBER (Drawn and Quarterly, 2003)
Istituto Italiano di Cultura, 686 Park Avenue, New York / T 212 879 4242 ext.375
N O V. 1 9 – D E C . 1 2 / Mo n d a y – F r i d a y : 1 2 – 5 PM
Exhibition “Graphic Novels from Europe”
Cultural Services of the French Embassy, 972 Fifth Avenue, New York / T 212 439 1400 / www.frenchculture.org
N O V. 1 9 , 6 : 3 0 PM
Discussion with all the authors, moderated by David Mazzucchelli
School of Visual Arts, 209 East 23 Street, New York / T 212 592 2000 /
N O V. 2 0 , 6 : 3 0 PM
Presentations and book signing with all the authors
MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art), 594 Broadway, New York / T 212 254 3511
N O V. 2 1 – D E C. 1 9 / T u e s d a y – S a t u r d a y : 1 2 – 7 PM
Exhibition of the two Czech authors “Alois Nebel–My Life”
(Opening on NOV. 21, 6:30 PM) Prague Kolektiv, 143 Front Street, Brooklyn / T 718 260 8013 /
We’ll have some more info on this exciting event later, but make sure to catch at least one while you’re around. This sort of lineup of talent is rarely seen on the US shores, and it should be a memorable week.
To mark its fifth anniversary in style and with a dash of fun, the New Literature from Europe series will celebrate an emblematic European form of literature and art this year: the graphic novel. The Graphic Novels from Europe festival will take place from November 17-21 with seven of Europe’s most famous contemporary graphic novelists (David B., Nicolas de Crécy, Igort, Jaromír 99, Isabel Kreitz, Max and Jaroslav Rudiš), who will participate in a series of free events throughout New York city. The five-day festival will include discussions, book signings and an exhibit of 60 panels at the French Cultural Services (please find the full list of events in the table below). Several venues will be involved, including the just renovated Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) and the School of Visual Arts.
Every year since 2004, the cultural institutions of the Czech Republic (Czech Center New York), France (The Cultural Services of the French Embassy), Germany (Goethe-Institut New York), Italy (Istituto Italiano di Cultura) and Spain (Instituto Cervantes) come together to celebrate European literature through a common prism. This year they chose to focus on graphic novels, which have always attracted a wide, devoted readership in Europe and are increasingly being recognized as a genuine form of literature in the United States as well. Previously relegated to the children’s sections in bookshops, graphic novels are now earning critical praise for their original, though-provoking take on weighty issues such as the Holocaust (Maus) and the Islamic Revolution in Iran (Persepolis). At the intersection of art and literature, graphic novels are also fascinating works of visual art, with powerful imagery that plays a key role in their story-telling.
The festival, though far from exhaustive, will nevertheless present a wide-ranging panorama of contemporary European creation. Indeed, the works of the seven selected graphic novelists vary enormously in style and subject manner, from the hyper-realist to the cartoonish, giving a taste of just how rich and diverse the European graphic novel scene is. Original works from all seven artists—10 panels from each—will be on display at the French Cultural Services from November 19 to December 12 during a free exhibit (open weekdays, 1-5pm). France is also hosting this exhibit to mark its current presidency of the European Union.
Jaromír Švejdík (aka Jaromír 99) and Jaroslav Rudiš of the Czech Republic are without a doubt the country’s most celebrated team of graphic novelists. Rudiš, a writer, collaborated with Jaromír 99, an artist and writer, to produce the most successful Czech graphic novel ever, Alois Nebel. A fascinating railway trilogy, it unfolds over three levels: the tortuous history of the 20th century provides the background for the story of Alois Nebel, a former railway employee gone mad, and for the crimes of a Polish murderer (the three threads come together to form a complex plot).
France’s David B. and Nicolas De Crécy both tell dreamlike stories, but with very different styles. David B.’s generally monochromatic drawings are sharply defined visions of imaginary worlds, bringing to mind forbidding dreamscapes. His latest album, Nocturnal Conspiracies, a collection of short stories inspired by his dreams (and nightmares!) will come out in the U.S. this December. Nicolas de Crécy has a softer touch, with his Glacial Period album, for instance, suggesting colorful charcoal drawings. Available in the U.S., Glacial Period tells the story of archeologists 1,000 years from now as they discover the remains of the Louvre Museum and begin theorizing about what kind of civilization built such an institution.
Isabel Kreitz is one of Germany’s leading graphic novelists (she was awarded the prestigious Sondermann Prize at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair). As well as being an award-winning illustrator, she has published a variety of graphic novels, both original works and literary adaptations. Her major works reveal diverse styles: the Ralf quartette, depicting the underground life of mutilated subway surfers in Hamburg, mixes realistic images with distorted elements. Meanwhile, Die Sache mit Sorge, which features a German agent working for Stalin in Japan during World War 2, gives great attention to the minute details of life in 1940s Tokyo, which are rendered in clean lines in a traditional manner.
Igort is very well-known in his native Italy, and his reputation is becoming global. Indeed, his stories themselves are very international, ranging from Japan to North and South America, all the while remaining deeply Italian in character. Full of elegant intelligence, his works are deceptively simple. His latest album, Five is the Perfect Number has just come out in the U.S. It is the captivating story of Peppino, a retired mafia hitman, who comes out of retirement to avenge the death of his son, killed by a rival gang. The ambitious series Baobab, also translated into English, is initially set in Japan at the turn of the 19th century, when a small, sickly, orphaned boy on the outskirts of Tokyo grows up hearing the stories his grandmother tells of her youth as the daughter of a Navy officer.
It is difficult to pin down Francesc Capdevila Gisbert’s style, as he masters several. But in any case, Max (his nom de plume) seems to have a special fondness for surrealism, and his album Bardín the Superrealist (released in English in 2006) clearly takes inspiration from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. In this award-winning series of stories, musings and gags, Bardín examines and questions his beliefs while he is confronted with surrealism and absurd humor.