Humanoids will publish Yann Damezin’s award-winning bande dessinée adaptation of a classical Arabic tragedy in Majnun and Layla: Songs from Beyond the Grave in November 2023. The English translation is by Thomas Harrison and Aqsa Ijaz.

According to the Press Release:

“It is a story known around the world. Born of an Arabic tale, it has been interpreted hundreds of times in Persian, Turkish, and Indian languages.

“It has influenced playwrights, composers, filmmakers, scholars, modern popular language, the first opera of Islamic origin, and individuals as varied as Aleister Crowley and Eric Clapton. The tragic tale of love unfulfilled – Majnun and Layla.

“Qays and Layla were madly in love. So in love, it has been said, that the young man could not contain his passion for his beloved, singing to the winds with such fervor he was given the nickname “Majnun” — The Madman. But their love could not be, as the lovers were separated by fate and man, leading to a tragic end for these star-crossed souls.

“Experience the classic Persian poem as painted in the lush palette of artist Yann Damezin. Through his brush, we see a decadent and sensorial world, one as raw and vulnerable as the love between the Majnun and his Layla.”

The origins of the story of Majnun and Layla are uncertain but it was believed to have already been present in 5th century Arabic literature. A Persian adaptation of the story by 12th century poet Nizami Ganjavi really cemented its status as a timeless classic, however. This version has been readapted and imitated in numerous languages and mediums since then. 

Damezin’s adaptation has met acclaim since its original French publication by Boîte à Bulles (as Majnoun et Leïli: Chants d’outre-tombe) in November 2022 both for its visual style and its use of French alexandrine, a style of classical poetry popularised in France between the 17th and 19th centuries – hence why the book requires a European Languages expert and a scholar of Persian poetry for its English adaptation.

On June 14 it won the 4th annual Prix Orange de la Bande Dessinée, an award for literary comics, beating six other finalists. Winners receive a €5000 ($5,500) prize and complementary promotion in the French press, online and at literary events. The winning title is voted on by a combination of authors, booksellers and readers. Jury member, comics author Coco said about the book:

“This year, the jury and Internet users were particularly touched by a book that was surprising, sumptuous and witty. Majnoun et Leïli: Chants d’outre-tombe by Yann Damezin, a story of impossible love, a masterpiece of finesse and originality. Written entirely in alexandrine, it is rich and luminous. Its author is as talented as he is promising.”

Yann Damezin is a French illustrator who has produced a number of graphic novels to critical acclaim. Majnun and Layla appears to be the first time any of his work has seen English translation. Other books of his include 2019 debut Concerto pour main gauche [tr. Concerto for the Left Hand] a true story about war-amputee Paul Wittgenstein  who pursues a successful career as a concert pianist.

Check out this preview of the book: