Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Song of Roland

Michel Rabagliati, Trans. Helge Dascher

With a slight nod of the (pen)cap to one of the oldest surviving epics of French literature, Rabagliati offers us a tender story about age, perseverance, and immortality. The Song of Roland continues the chronicle of his alter-ego, Paul (Paul Has a Summer Job; Paul Moves Out), this time with a story about the life and death of Paul’s father-in-law, a larger-than-life patriarch, living in suburban Quebec, who faces death by cancer with the strength of character he uses to inspire and love his large Catholic family.

Rabagliati’s style is beautiful, brush-work centred, and reminiscent of European comics. Black and white line drawings on heavy paper stock always make me notice the impact, psychological and physical, of light on a scene. A bright scene, with lots of white space for sky, can make a reader feel a sense of peace. Heavily hatched lines or darkly filled backgrounds feel sinister, foreboding. Rabagliati is fantastic with the weight of his drawings, and the way this scenery is reflected in the emotions of his characters. A typical scene of four or five panels can pass with few words, just facial and body language, and much conveyed.
This book is part of the excellent BDANG series (I believe the acronym is Bande Dessinees en ANGlais), which aims to translate major French-language cartoons into English in order to interest a new market in French Canada.

- Dan

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