Pachyderme - Frederik Peeters & Edward Gauvin

Here’s another graphic novel for your Hugo consideration. I discovered Pachyderme via Edward Gauvin, who did the translation into English. The original version was written and drawn by Swiss artist, Frédérik Peeters. The English edition is published by Self Made Hero, the same people who brought you Ian Culbard’s comic version of At The Mountains of Madness.

Check out a review of Pachyderme (for example this one on the FPI blog) ans you’ll see mention of David Lynch. That’s no accident. Moebius, in his introduction to the book, claims to have found frequent references to Mulholland Drive in the text (though he’s not sure if Peeters intended them). In any case, by the time you get to the end you’ll not be at all sure what really happened, and will suspect that much of the narrative may have been a dream. After all, episodes like this can’t possibly be real, can they?

Page from Pachyderme

The lady in the picture is Carice Sorrel. She gave up a promising career as a concert pianist for love, but her husband turned out to be more interested in his job than in her. She’s just written him a letter asking for a divorce when she hears that he’s been struck by a drunk driver and is in hospital. Getting to see him proves more difficult than you might expect.

Along the way we encounter the lecherous Dr. Barrymore, and Audrey, a young girl who has a crush on her piano teacher, Mme. Sorrel. Not to mention a very mysterious gentleman who claims to be a secret service agent. There may, or may not, be a plot to plunge the world into a nuclear war, which may explain why M. Sorrel is so distracted by his work at the UN. It is all very deliberately mysterious. And even if I could work out what is going on I suspect I would not be allowed to tell you. Indeed, as Moebius says, “In Pachyderme lies something mysterious and obvious that must, above all, not be explained.”

What I can tell you is that the art is very striking, and that Gauvin’s translation is superb. It is a beautiful book and I’m delighted to have a copy.

Sadly, on the Hugo front, Pachyderme won’t be available in the USA until later this year, so it will probably get caught in the split vote trap, but it is well worth looking out for.

Self Made Hero also sent me another Gauvin translation: We Won’t See Auschwitz by Jérémie Dres. This appears to be autobiography — the story of how Dres and his brother made a pilgrimage to Poland to seek out their grandmother’s roots. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and it doesn’t appear to be Hugo material, but it does look fascinating. Here’s a Guardian review if you are interested.

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