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Epilepticby David B.
Synopses & Reviews
Hailed by The Comics Journal as one of Europe's most important and innovative comics artists, David B. has created a masterpiece in Epileptic, his stunning and emotionally resonant autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Epileptic gathers together and makes available in English for the first time all six volumes of the internationally acclaimed graphic work.
David B. was born Pierre-Francois Beauchard in a small town near Orleans, France. He spent an idyllic early childhood playing with the neighborhood kids and, along with his older brother, Jean-Christophe, ganging up on his little sister, Florence. But their lives changed abruptly when Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age eleven. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse.
Angry at his brother for abandoning him and at all the quacks who offered them false hope, Pierre-Francois learned to cope by drawing fantastically elaborate battle scenes, creating images that provide a fascinating window into his interior life. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family, Epileptic is also a moving depiction of one family's intricate history. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to the stories of Pierre-Francois's grandparents and we relive his grandfathers' experiences in both World Wars. We follow Pierre-Francois through his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, all the while charting his complicated relationship with his brother and Jean-Christophes losing battle with epilepsy. Illustrated with beautiful and striking black-and-white images, Epileptic is as astonishing, intimate, and heartbreaking as the best literary memoir.
"The first half of French cartoonist David B.'s astonishing L'Ascension du Haut Mal appeared in English a few years ago, but this is the first time the whole book has been translated, and it's one of the greatest graphic novels ever published. Epileptic is a memoir of B.'s evolution into an artist, how learning to re-envision and recreate the world with his eyes and hands became his escape route from the madness and disease that might have destroyed him. B.'s family becomes involved with the shady alternative medicine world in France circa 1970 in an attempt to help his epileptic, unstable older brother. What B. picks up from that culture, from the military history he obsesses over and from his brother's cruel delusions is the raw material of his art: his stylized bodies and objects, which look like woodcuts and urn drawings, and especially his constant conflation of physical reality and symbolic value. With B.'s parents consumed with finding a cure, and his brother's quality of life deteriorating, B.'s dreams of a normal childhood are constantly undermined by his brother's illness, to be replaced by a waking and dreaming life filled with demons.This struggle becomes Epileptic's narrative core. B.'s artwork is magnificent — gorgeously bold, impressionistic representations of the world not as it is but as he's taught himself to perceive it — especially in the heartbreaking dream sequences near the end of the book. B.'s illustrations constantly underscore his writing's wrenching psychological depth; readers can literally see how the chaos of his childhood shaped his vision and mind." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The best book of the year...David B's scope and artistry put Epileptic on a par with Speigelman's holocaust masterpiece Maus. Andrew Arnold, Time.com's #1 Best Comic of the Year 2002
"Though it's superbly drawn, the beauty...is found in the writing and in David B's persistence in trying to understand a brother." The Guardian (UK)
"David B has created a wildly beautiful fantasia on human frailty, on the making of an artist and the unmaking of his own brother — a memoir that is hopeful and bitterly poignant all at once." Paul Collins, author of Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism
"[J]ust as the graphic novel has borrowed from the acute observational skills of the great literary writers of the past, so Epileptic borrows from the great cultural and intellectual archeologies of French nonfiction of the last 100 years, while remaining both accessible and moving." Rick Moody, The New York Times Book Review
"A painfully honest examination of the effects of debilitating epilepsy on one man and his family, told through a combination of straightforward text and expressionist imagery that ranges in its palette from centuries-old symbolism to the secret worlds of childhood. Even as he shows up the hollow promises of every school of esoteric and alternative medicine his family encounters in their quest for help, David B. works a real kind of deeply human magic on the page — something forged from black ink and a soul's struggle — that marks Epileptic as one of the first truly great narrative artworks of the new millennium." Jason Lutes, author of Jar of Fools and Berlin
"In Epileptic, the distortions of family life caused by his brother's illness are the cracked lens through which David B. explores on his own family's history and, by extension, the conflicts of 20th century France and even, to an extent, the world. The thing that makes this memoir unlike any ever seen before is the wonderful, inky, intricate artwork, and the way that allows us to enter into the story via the rich and angry fantasy life of a growing boy." Jessica Abel, author of La Perdida, Mirror, Window and Soundtrack
"David B.'s sprawling tale of his family, overrun by his brother's illness and obsessed with curing it, is a masterful depiction of people searching for answers when there may be none. David B. is clearly one of the best storytellers in the medium of comics." Joe Sacco, author of The Fixer, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde
"Fantastical, gloriously illustrated graphic memoir of the French cartoonist's life, overshadowed by an epileptic brother....An unromantic, heartrending tale, wrapped in a cloak of nightmares." Kirkus Reviews
The most acclamed European graphic novel of the 1990s, Epileptic is author David B.'s story of his brother's battle with epliepsy — but it tums into a penetrating and sometimes lacerating self-examination on the author's part, as he delves into his own complex emotions and his family's troubled history, as well as his own youthful fantasy life. Particularly pointed is his description of the family's joumey from one attempted cure to another (including acupuncture, spiritualism, and macrobiotic diet), the book is drawn in David B.'s spare but detailed, straightforward but elegant style. Co-published with France's L'Association.
About the Author
David B. is a founding member of L'Association, a group of French cartoonists who banded together as publishers in 1990 and have revolutionized European comics with their groundbreaking approach to format, subject matter, and style. He has received many awards, including the French Alph' Art award for comics excellence in 2000, and he was cited as European Cartoonist of the Year in 1998 by The Comics Journal. He lives in France.
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