"Epileptic" ("L'Ascension du Haut-Mal")
'Epileptic': Disorder in the House
by David B. (pseudonym Pierre-Francois Beauchard)
By RICK MOODY
New York Times
23 January 2005
Historians of the graphic form will observe that Spiegelman, Sacco and others (one stunning example is the recent prose/graphic hybrid ''Diary of a Teenage Girl'' by Phoebe Gloeckner) have all experimented with autobiography in their work, but in the case of ''Epileptic'' the autobiographical impulse has, in my view, more to do with what's happening in French writing these days, namely l'autofiction. If, against the advice of conservatives, you should travel to the Paris of 2005, you would find that the traditional roman a clef of French literature has lately given way to a cottage industry of remorselessly literary accounts of the intimate lives of French nationals. David B.'s story, in broad outline, is about the desperate attempts of his family to deal with his older brother's chronic epilepsy; it is consonant with the confessional literary impulse in French letters, but as befits the graphic genre, it also takes liberties with the form. The young narrator, Pierre-Francois, for example, is obsessed with military history, and therefore the particulars of his brother's story are interwoven with the young artist's myriad imaginings of the invasions of the Mongols, his grandfather's experiences in World War I, and tales of the Algerian war and the French Resistance.
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