The French edition of international women’s lifestyle magazine Elle has announced its shortlist of 15 graphic novels in contention for their grand comics prize – Grand Prix de la BD ELLE 2022 – and the French editions of Alison Bechdel‘s The Secret to Superhuman Strength and Jennifer Hayden‘s The Story of My Tits have made the cut.
Announcing Grand Prix de la BD 2022 shortlist, Elle said:
“Discover the albums in the running for the 2nd edition of the ELLE Grand Prix de la BD.The splendid covers do not lie. The final selection of the ELLE Comic Book Grand Prix is full of everything, especially the very best: commitment and nostalgia, adventure and melancholy, entertainment and reflection, flamboyant colors and intense darkness. Fifteen albums and graphic novels are in the running for this 2nd edition.”
While Bechdel’s The Secret to Superhuman Strength and Hayden’s The Story of My Tits were released in English in 2021 and 2015, respectively, both books made their French debuts this past year.
2022 is the second year that Elle has run its Grand Prix de la BD. Winners are picked by a jury of twenty-five selected Elle readers and will be announced in early December. The winner of its first edition was French cartoonist Corinne Rey/Coco‘s Dessiner encore [tr. Drawing Again], a graphic memoir about the author surviving the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks and how drawing helped her through the trauma.
You can check out the full Grand Prix de la BD ELLE 2022 list of fifteen books complete with translated synopses below.
Naphtaline, Sole Otero (Ça et La)
“The year is 2001 and Argentina is in the midst of a serious political and economic crisis. Rocío, a nineteen-year-old girl, moves into her grandmother Vilma’s old house, shortly after Vilma’s funeral. In this environment marked by absence, Rocio recalls Vilma’s life, a story tinged with tragedy that begins in 1920s Italy. Vilma’s parents fled the country shortly after her birth, when Mussolini came to power. Arriving in Argentina penniless, they were unable to finance Vilma’s education. Vilma is forced to leave school and is married off to a neighbor after becoming pregnant and being abandoned by the man she thought she would make a life with. Vilma’s history in this patriarchal society is a long series of disappointments and sacrifices, which will gradually make her more and more bitter. Vilma will end her life alone, having cut off most of her family members, except for Rocio. The young girl, who has many questions about her future, will try to learn from this family tragedy. Ambitious, broad, teeming with many narrative and graphic ideas, Naphtaline is partly inspired by the history of the family of Sole Otero. The narrative spanning multiple eras, the inventiveness of the drawing and staging, the play on color, make this graphic novel a great discovery and Sole Otero an author with a bright future.”
Le poids des héros [tr. ‘The Weight of Heroes‘] , David Sala (Casterman)
“In Le Poids des héros, David Sala traces his early personal trajectory marked by the mentor figures of his grandfathers, war heroes and resistance fighters. By summoning his point of view as a little boy, he plunges us into a majestic and abundant exploration of childhood and adolescence. The use of the imagination allows us to approach the dark areas and the flaws from a safe distance, while recomposing a universal learning and transmission path for the reader. Without forgetting the imperishable taste of bike races, the discovery of the first US rap songs, the first times of artistic initiation at the Emile Cohl school.”
Les Pizzlys [tr. The Pizzlys], Jérémie Moreau (Delcourt)
“Driving around Paris day and night in his BMW on credit, Nathan runs one Uber errand after another to support his siblings. Literally at one with his GPS, Nathan plunges into a deep depression when his cell phone breaks down. After an accident, Annie, his latest client, offers him the chance to live in the woods with Zoe and Etienne in Alaska.”
La synagogue [tr. The Synagogue], Joann Sfar (Dargaud)
“It took Joann Sfar being on a hospital bed in 2021 for him to finally dare to tell his true adventures of adolescence. A generation that feels guilty for having been born after Hitler and for not being able to fight him. Kids with clenched fists who tell themselves that the skinhead, middle class kids who cross their path will not be a worthy adversary for their grief. This is the story of the Jews of France who dream of being like everyone else but don’t know how to make themselves useful when bombs start exploding in synagogues. The Synagogue is a story that reminds us of the permanence of political extremism and the need to fight it, even if this struggle must be repeated in each generation.”
Je suis toujours vivant [tr. ‘I’m Still Alive‘], Roberto Saviano & Asaf Hanuka (Galimard jeunesse)
“Roberto Saviano is the author of Gomorra, a novel-investigation that describes the criminal empire of the Camorra. Published in 2006, the book was a powerful force and its success is worldwide. Sentenced to death by the Naples mafia, Roberto Saviano has been living under police protection for fifteen years. This story, drawn by Asaf Hanuka (Eisner Award winner), is that of a survivor who continues to write at the risk of his life and refuses to surrender.”
Ladies With Guns, Olivier Bocquet & Anlor (Dargaud)
Note: Available in English digitally from Europe Comics.
Europe Comics Synopsis:
“Five women from various backgrounds are brought together by fate to fight as allies for their survival. A retired schoolteacher, an Indian who’s handy with a bow, a young, immigrant widow from London, a brothel worker who’s made off with the till and a fourteen-year-old slave who’s been put in a cage. This unlikely band of adventurers must fight off the violence men resort to when caught in greed’s ubiquitous grip. They’ll do it with arrows, pies, brooms, pots, knitting-needles, and a lethal revolver that becomes even more dangerous in the hands of the sharpest-shooter of them all: a teenager who’s been whipped, locked in a cage and freed only to fall victim to pneumonia. These women have got each other’s backs and don’t take kindly to the worst mankind has to offer.”
Nénés chéris/The Story of My Tits, Jennifer Hayden (La Cité graphique)
Originally published in English as The Story of My Tits through Top Shelf in 2015. The original synopsis:
“When Jennifer Hayden was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 43, she realized that her tits told a story. Across a lifetime, they’d held so many meanings: hope and fear, pride and embarrassment, life and death. And then they were gone. Now, their story has become a way of understanding her story. Growing up flat-chested and highly aware of her inadequacies… heading off to college, where she “bloomed” in more ways than one… navigating adulthood between her mother’s mastectomy, her father’s mistress, and her musician boyfriend’s problems of his ownnot to mention his sprawling family. Then the kids come along… As cancer strikes three different lives, some relationships crumble while others emerge even stronger, and this sarcastic child of the ’70s finally finds a goddess she can believe in.
“For everyone who’s faced cancer personally, or watched a loved one fight that battle, Hayden’s story is a much-needed breath of fresh air, an irresistible blend of sweetness and skepticism. Rich with both symbolism & humor, The Story of My Tits will leave you laughing, weeping, and feeling grateful for every day.”
La ferme de Montaquoy [tr: ‘The Montaquoy Farm‘], Regis Franc (Presse de la cité)
“Ernest Loste, 20 years old, a winegrower ruined by blight, arrives in Paris from his native Bordeaux. The capital is a whirlwind and Ernest prospers by following his passion for cars. But he misses the land. In 1920, a stone’s throw from the city, he discovered what would become the Montaquoy farm. He will make it a pilot farm. The “Trente Glorieuses” [post-WW2 period of French economic growth via State intervention] came and Madeleine, his daughter, took over. But she had to comply with the new requirements: regrouping, yield, mechanization. With the impoverishment of the soils, the lines of account weaken. And if one still harvests, it is for the beauty of the gesture. At the beginning of the new century, it is Valentine who enters the scene. She leaves the cinema, London and many amusing things behind. She studied in CAP in agriculture. She dreams. Her dream takes shape. The farm will live again in a virtuous way. Ancient wheat, exceptional flour, a peaceful land. This is the story of the farm of Montaquoy, in the Gâtinais region. An album of drawings and photos, of memories that form the gesture of three generations of farmers. Of their work and their days.”
Le secret de la force surhumaine/The Secret to Superhuman Strength, Alison Bechdel (Denoël Graphic)
Released in 2021 from Mariner Books. Original Synopsis:
“All her life, Alison Bechdel has searched for an elusive secret…
“The secret to superhuman strength.
“She has looked for it in her favourite books, the lives of her heroes, celibacy, polyamory, activism, therapy, and most obsessively, in her lifelong passion for exercise. Skiing, running, karate, cycling, yoga, weightlifting – you name it, she’s tried it. “Oh, to be self-sufficient! Hard as a rock! An island!”
“But as she gets older, her body isn’t getting any stronger. And in a changing, sometimes overwhelming world, are “cantaloupe-sized guns” all a person needs? Maybe the all-important secret is not where she expected to find it…”
La dernière reine [tr: ‘The Last Queen‘], Jean Marc Rochette (Casterman)
“A battle-scarred man from World War I, Edouard Roux finds refuge in the studio of the animal sculptor Jeanne Sauvage. She gives him a face and introduces him to the artists of Montmartre. In exchange, Édouard introduces her to the majesty of the Vercors plateau and the story of the last bear he saw killed as a child. In the heart of the Cirque d’Archiane, he reveals the Last Queen to her and encourages Jeanne to create the masterpiece that will make her famous.
“In the vein of the great serial novels of the 19th century, The Last Queen crosses the destinies of the last bear of the Vercors and of Edouard Roux, the broken face of World War II.
“As in Le Loup, man and animal confront each other in a powerful story, mixing ecological questions, feminism, love story and art history.”
Merel, Clara Lodewick (Les ondes Marcinelle)
“Merel, in her forties, is a free woman living without a husband or children. Dividing her time between duck breeding, the local soccer club and writing, she leads a life of harmony and friendship. But everything goes wrong at a party during which she makes a joke about the sexuality of the husband of one of her neighbors. A joke that will spread the word that Merel is sleeping with all the men in her small village in Flanders… The whole community will then gang up on her, making her life a living hell… Clara Lodewick, a young author from Brussels, offers here a debut book full of graphic and narrative maturity, a social painting of the Flemish countryside that is both accurate and rare. Her tone and her drawing in direct colors will make you immediately close to her characters!”
Monsieur Proust, Céleste Albaret, George Belmont & Stéphane Barel (Seghers)
Adaptation of Céleste Albaret’s Monsieur Proust,
“The graphic novel of Monsieur Proust, a classic that has been reprinted many times, on the occasion of the centenary of the writer’s death.
“Céleste Albaret was Marcel Proust’s housekeeper from 1913 to his death in 1922. Having just arrived from her native Lozère to meet her husband, Proust’s chauffeur, in Paris, she entered the service of the writer for menial tasks, and ended up dedicating her life to him, embracing his reclusive life to the point of participating materially in the elaboration of In Search of Lost Time (taking notes under dictation, pasting her additions on the famous “béquets”). The woman who inspired the character of Françoise in La recherche would watch over Proust until the end. With the help of Georges Belmont, who collected and edited her memories, she published Monsieur Proust in 1973, which has since become a cult book.
“This moving testimony is a unique document on Proust’s daily life during his last years and on the conditions in which he wrote his work.
“In an adaptation that offers the quintessence of Céleste’s text and through the grace of Stéphane Manel’s drawings, we follow the young woman into the intimacy of Boulevard Haussmann and Rue Hamelin to discover the improbable ceremonial of Proust’s days and nights. From the kitchen to the cork room, we witness the routines (fumigations, coffee preparation, etc.), but also visits, outings and the monumental work of writing… Everything comes to life in this book that delivers the sensory keys of this upside down world that Proust made his kingdom, a world where the boundaries between reality and fiction were deliberately blurred.”
Vernon Subutex 2, Luz & Virginie Despentes (Albin Michel)
Second part of a surreal tale. Translated Synopsis:
“Rain or shine, Vernon’s “gang” was back together. And a silly idea – getting together out of town to dance – became a shared adventure. They called it the Convergences.”
A la recherche de Jeanne [tr: ‘Searching for Jeanne‘], Zazie Tavitian & Caroline Péron (Calmann Levy)
“One summer, Zazie’s cousin tells her about a recipe book found in an attic. The book is that of Jeanne Weill, her great-great-grandmother. In the family, everyone knows who Jeanne is, murdered in 1943 in Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp… But nobody ever talks about her. What was Jeanne’s life like, a Parisian Jewish middle-class woman? Was she in love? Did she like to party? Did she like to play with her children? Or did she prefer to go to social events?
“From Jerusalem to Dijon, Zazie decides to investigate her family, using the recipes in her grandmother’s notebook to untie tongues and bring back memories. Little by little, Jeanne’s life takes shape, at the same time as the veil is lifted on the family’s silence, transmitted from generation to generation, and on the collective silence linked to the fate that France reserved for the Jews during the war…”
Le bureau des jardins et des étangs [tr. ‘The Bureau of Gardens and Ponds‘], Didier Decoin & Julia Bourdet (Stock)
“Empire of Japan, Heian period, 12th century.
“After the sudden death of her husband Katsuro, a carp fisherman and supplier of the sacred ponds of the imperial city, Miyuki must take his place to carry to the capital the beautiful fish with bright scales.
“Wearing straw sandals, bent under the pole from which her fish tanks are hung, Miyuki leaves her village for the first time and sets out on a journey through forests and mountains. On her way she will go from temple to meeting house, she will face storms and earthquakes, the treachery of brigands and the cruelty of madams, but also the fury of the kappa, aquatic monsters that spring from the water to devour the entrails of travellers
“With strength and poetry, ink and colors, rediscover Didier Decoin’s immense novel and its unforgettable heroine Miyuki.”