Published on: Tuesday, November 1, 2016 Takoma Park Newsletter

Praise for a new French graphic novels

By Pat Hanrahan

French language readers take note. The Takoma Park Maryland Library has expanded its French collection with the purchase of two volumes of graphic memoir by Riad Sattouf, L’arabe du future, an autobiography of a childhood in the Middle East.

The product of a French mother and Syrian father, young Sattouf spent his early childhood in Libya and Syria. His story of these years (1978 – 1985) is gripping. It helped me understand a bit better what is happening now in Syria.

Sattouf père believed the Arab world of the 70’s was poised for outstanding achievements. With his wife and child, he moved to his birth village to participate in the glorious future which as we know never happened. The author writes about Syria from a child’s point of view and without censure. His parents, his teacher and his peers dominate his days. The illustrations enhance the childish perception. For instance the teacher is always enormous, and when she’s angry, her mouth can take over an entire graphic square in the band of illustrations. Characters who are outraged express themselves in deep red text balloons.

A best seller in France, Sattouf’s book has been translated into English with positive reviews. The TPML has the English editions of the first two books and will purchase the subsequent volumes as they are translated into English. So far three volumes — of an expected five volumes — have been published in French, and all three are available at the Library, so try the books in French. Reading French graphic books is fun. Even if you aren’t bilingual (which I am most definitely not), the illustrations help comprehension when words are baffling, and graphic book text is often minimal anyway.

So go for it! Enjoy a feeling of accomplishment from reading a book en fran- çais, particularly one that is as hard to put down as Sattouf’s bande-desinée.

Pat Hanrahan is a Takoma Park resident and serves on the Board of the Friends of the Takoma Park Maryland Library.

This article appeared in the November 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.