Fabrice Neaud photographié par Fabrice Poincelet

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  • « Everything I do, I do at an increasing risk »

    For The Comics Journal - 2011


  • EVERYTHING I DO, I DO AT AN INCREASING RISK

    An Interview with Fabrice Neaud, by Matthias Wivel.
    Published on the website of the Comics Journal.

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    Received wisdom tells us that returning to a masterwork is ill advised. It almost invariably upsets the delicate balance of elements that made the work resonate in the first place. Nevertheless, that is what French cartoonist Fabrice Neaud did in 2009 when he released a so-called “augmented” version of his great autobiographical work Journal 3, first published in 1999.

    Neaud was not done with the story. He had originally censored himself out of anxiety about what would happen if he did not, and perhaps he even lacked the clarity of retrospection gained only with maturation. So while one might dispute the general wisdom of such a move, or point out the inevitable stylistic incongruities caused, it is hard to argue against the resultant thematic and conceptual enrichment of the book.

    This interview was conducted at the 2010 Angoulême festival, at which Neaud’s work was the object of a retrospective exhibition. It probes the above-mentioned questions, and will hopefully simultaneously serve as a primer on this pioneer in comics autobiography for readers unfamiliar with his work, opening up the discussion as it does, to encompass questions of representation, authenticity, and consequence in reality-based comics.

    A little background : Neaud, born in 1968, graduated from art school in 1991. He was one of the co-founders of the autobiography-oriented Angoulême-based comics group and publisher Ego comme X, in whose eponymous revue he started publishing his ongoing comics diary in 1994. As it progressed, most of these comics were collected in four books, entitled Journal, from 1996-2002.

    The third volume is the biggest in the series, and also the most complex, conceptually as well as emotionally. Briefly, it narrates events of a year-and-a-half in its author’s life, centering on his unrequited love for a man, a friend, who in the book is called Dominique. Neaud engages inquisitively, but also immersively, the emotional turmoil caused by such an irresolvable situation.

    What is more, he weaves the portrayal of his relationship with Dominique and his circle of friends into a greater social context of heteronormativity. By detailing the personal consequences of his love and his impulse creatively to express it – first in a parody comic, since in a sheaf of brutally honest symbolic comics pages that he hands to Dominique as if it were a loaded gun – Neaud manages to expand his particular experience to encompass that of being regarded, and regarding oneself, as an other because of one’s sexuality – an experience that at any moment can lead also to anonymous brutalization. In short, his scope is political as much as it is personal.

    Since 2002, Neaud has more or less stopped publishing diaristic comics. His most sustained effort outside his now interrupted book series remains the novella-length “Émile” of 2000 (available in English here). As a consequence in part of what he had lived with Dominique, this story sees him omitting entirely drawings of people, including the man whose name adorns the title. He does this to illustrate by absence the personal consequences of appropriating another person’s image in art, exacerbated in Neaud’s case because of his naturalistic rendering style, heavily based on photo reference, which seeks to capture likenesses in detail.

    While the implications of depicting Dominique and his friends, as well as Émile, were primarily personal, Neaud has since run into legal problems. As he told the audience at a stage appearance the day before this interview, one particular affair had led to a court injunction against his drawing the person in question, as well as various extra-legal threats more ominous in character. He described this as a crisis in his life and work, not only making it difficult, if not impossible, for him to continue his most important artistic project, but also to continue living in Angoulême, where in some ways he was starting to feel like persona non grata.

    It is my hope that the reader will enjoy this candid conversation, and that it will help bring to the attention of a broader English-speaking readership the work of this major artist in comics, so far woefully neglected by English-language publishers. My thanks to Neaud and his publisher at Ego comme X, Loïc Néhou, for their patience and assistance.

    — 

    I specifically wanted to talk about the “augmented” version of Journal 3 – the decision to return to this work and add scenes.

    OK, when Journal 3 was first published ten years ago, I already knew that there were parts that I wanted to correct and others that I wanted to add. Most importantly, there’s a scene in the original version – there was this one image, along with which I told an anecdote in captions, in just one panel. My impression was that most readers missed the importance of that part because it was too short. It is a very important scene. At the time, I decided not to draw it out because it was too fraught and I was afraid that it would cause even more problems with the people concerned. So I censored myself. But I knew from the beginning that it needed more space and I knew that I had to tell that story in full one day.

    In addition to that, there’s a scene in the beginning with a sergeant that I met, which ends a little abruptly, without any depictions of sex. So again I wanted at an early stage to complete that scene, that is depict the sex.

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    THE VIDEO

    I also expanded the scene with a professor that I have a violent argument with by three or four pages, in order to support the other expanded scene I talked about—what I call “the video scene.” It was extremely important since it concerned people who had criticized me because I had drawn them without their consent, as you see in the book, and for that reason it was morally unacceptable to me. Around the same time, these same people tricked somebody with a video camera, somebody who had lied about who he was, presenting himself to a young student as a health professional. It is clear that he was trying to seduce this young man in a rather awkward – let’s say “borderline” – way. And this young man, entirely justifiably, felt this to be transgressive and wanted to prevent things from going any further. So he decided to have a couple of friends present at their agreed meeting and have them film the man, in case there was going to be trouble. So they filmed him and it went well : the man arrived and saw that there were others present besides the guy he wanted to seduce and he quickly explained that there was a misunderstanding and went away.

    But these young men were angry and started imagining wild things about what could have happened. They watched the video repeatedly, stoking their anger, and went out and came across the guy again and threatened him that they were going to report him to the police. Which is what they ended up doing, and they showed to video to the police as well. The young guy concerned, Nicholas – the victim – ended up choosing not to press charges.

    The story might have ended there. As a forgettable anecdote. But the problem is that this video was still around. These young guys started showing it to a lot of people, other students like themselves. They ended up organizing a viewing… I don’t have proof, I don’t know exactly how it happened, but I know that certain professors watched the video along with a number of students, as if it were part of a class.

    As a work of art.

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    Yes. I wasn’t part of it, of course, but I was having problems at the time with Dominique because I’d taken photos of him and wanted to draw him, and because I’d published this minicomic “Le Doumé”, which had offended a lot of people. So this affected me, and I started telling them ‘what you’re doing is unacceptable, you’re doing a horrible thing, you’re taking advantage of someone to humiliate him, and even if the person in question is unaware of it, it’s really transgressive.’ Of course, they all told me that my reaction was understandable because I was homosexual. I responded that to go to the police was a normal, completely fair reaction, but to start promoting the video around the school as if it were a reality clip – something that didn’t exist at the time – of the kind you see all the time on YouTube or DailyMotion… To me, that was absurd, morally – even more so because these people had criticized me for my work. So that is an important scene in the book.

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    And it becomes central to your larger political argument.

    Yes, precisely. There were already political elements in the book, but with the expansion of this anecdote, it becomes much more evident. The political perspective is much stronger. It presents the lone view of a person in opposition to that of a group, which considers itself the norm and which regards the other from the outside as if he is not normal. I add to this an historical perspective on homosexuality in France, and especially around the time of the events described in the book. I explain how homosexuality was only depenalized in France in 1980, a mere thirteen years before the events described in the book. A very short time. This may help explain the actions of this person – he may have been a little deranged and didn’t know how to go about seducing a young man. He was psychologically constituted by guilt engendered by a homophobic society. He was around fifty years old and must have been about thirty-seven in 1980, which means that through his entire childhood and youth he would have felt guilt for being homosexual. It’s an hypothesis : basically what I’m saying is that this kind of societal order can only produce victims, and this particular episode was a result of the homophobia of an entire generation.

    The expansion of this scene also leads you to add to the scene with the professor…

    Yes, right.

    …it becomes even more of a political manifestation than in the original.

    Yes, an accusation.

    And it already had a very strong political edge.

    Yes, it’s good that you’ve noticed, because in France very few people picked up on this dimension. That’s another reason why I revised the book, even if I doubt that it’s going to change the perception of many here in France. But as I said earlier, I was very happy to read the article [by Bart Beaty] that you [The Comics Journal #241] did on the book, because it was one of the only articles that viewed my work from a political perspective. Comics people in France who read my work have a tendency to overlook this and focus solely on the psychological portrayal of the narrator, which again enables them to isolate him somewhere in the orbit of the mentally aberrant –just as happened with this man on the video. We have somebody who is homosexual and unhappy, who is a victim, who is angry and wants to strike back, and therefore makes a book in which he accuses people who don’t feel involved. In France there is a total denial of this very rational and carefully formulated discourse, this analysis of social behavior. But the Anglo-Saxons, with Mr. Beaty, noticed it, I’m happy to say.

    So yes, I’ve added a very strong accusation, saying, “no, we’re not isolated people to whom similar things happen at random – there’s a system of thought, a dominant ideology that forces us to act in certain ways.” And in the cases of the school, this accusation is particularly forceful because the narrator – that is, me – accuses the school system itself of being responsible for the emotional and sexual pain of some of its students. This is a serious charge, which seemed absurd to the professors and to the French readership – the ranting of a madman. But in spite of my obvious involvement in the matter and everything else, I believe there’s some truth to it that these people are unable to see. I don’t know whether this is the impression that the reader…

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    Well, it’s exactly that. I wanted to ask you : that scene with the professor is a construction…

    Yes.

    I didn’t happen like that. Did you worry about inserting something that obviously constructed ?

    Didactic ?

    Yes.

    On what level ?

    In relation to the very lived aspect of large parts of the Journal. It’s in a different register.

    That scene is made up, it’s a lie ; it never happened. Just like Dominique’s big monologue at the end, which also didn’t happen like that – it is a synthesis of three different conversations with Dominique. The argument with the professor is similar : it’s the result of three, four, five conversations with people from the art school, students as well as professors. It’s a synthesis. My character says very hard things that I wasn’t actually able to say at the time because I was too angry – I wasn’t capable of the analysis I bring to it in the book. I was when I first wrote it, but didn’t dare to include such strong accusations, basically saying clearly to the professors “you are responsible for the psychological state of the students because you admit female students based on their looks. Your selection is far from an objective consideration of the quality of their work, it is based on sex.” And that is reprehensible, and all the more so because it’s accepted. And I know it’s true : I know a number of former students who sat on admissions committees there, all of whom have witnessed this kind of thing going on. So there you are.

    There’s real anger in that sequence. Is this anger mostly an expression of your feelings today, thinking about these events, or more the result of an effort to represent what you felt at the time ?

    The reflection is today’s… well, actually, it’s not, really – it dates back more than a dozen years, to when I was writing the first edition of the book, but I didn’t dare… I already had those thoughts then, and those sentiments, but I didn’t know how to express them, I didn’t know whether I could without risking a real scandal that might lead to legal problems. This was a real accusation, a defamation – I addressed the school : “you’re responsible, I accuse you.” I didn’t have these thoughts right at the moment when I was living these events, but quite soon after that. So I decided to combine this analysis with the anger, which is really the anger I felt at the time. Back then, I got really, really, really upset with one of the professors : I cried, I screamed, I trembled with rage. It was so intense. I still have this anger today, but I’ve rationalized it much more… at the time, it was all I had, and the result was that I came across as a crazy person.

    AUTHENTICITY

    The reason I ask you is because of this notion of authenticity. This must be very important to you : here we have a synthesis of moments, something lived combined with certain ideas, and you must reconcile those while maintaining a sense of authenticity…

    OK, so there are several levels of narration in this journal : there’s the author, Fabrice Neaud ; there’s the narrator, Fabrice Neaud – he is the one that mostly expresses himself in the captions ; and there’s the character Fabrice Neaud that you see in the panels. That’s three levels of narration. Ideas, concepts, analyses, rationalization are obviously made at a certain remove, in a present tense like that of Marcel Proust, by an omniscient narrator. But in order to stage the lived events of the time, I’ve decided occasionally to let the director talk through the character Fabrice, as in the scene with the professor. To stay true to the events themselves, I’ve decided to play myself as a different character and make him talk. That is to say, the angry character who talks doesn’t necessarily reflect the narrator’s thoughts.

    Is it the voice of the narrator of the captions ?

    Those are closer to the thoughts of the author, my thoughts, than what happens in the speech balloons of the character Fabrice. I hope the reader sees the difference. I can draw myself very angry and add a caption that says “I was very angry” and it’s no longer the same thing. It means that the narrator of the caption is no longer angry, clearly. So I’m playing a bit with the narrative techniques of comics in those cases. In order to remain true to the events, I draw myself, but at the same time, I add commentary exterior to the lived events. Occasionally the boundary between the two is blurred, for example when the anger of then remains an anger of the now. That’s the case with the sequence on tolerance [toward the end of the book].

    Ah yes.

    There. It is clearly the narrator who is talking with an anger that is perhaps even stronger than that of the character. It’s a moment of synthesis of the two. We can no longer tell who is talking.

    In that sequence you use symbolic images to talk about ideas and concepts, a little like David B. does so often, but also very different in that your drawing is so naturalistic.

    Yeah, it’s a little like what Philippe Squarzoni does. We know each other well and he told me that he understood how one could express ideas and discourse in comics in this way from reading me…

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    Yes, comics are really well suited for that.

    Exactly. You can put in a word, and an image that is like the word but has a different sense. For example, a little later in the book, after Dominique’s monologue, there’s this page, which has recently been analyzed by a semiologist from Lyon. He pointed out this part, where I write “So I look at myself, a stricken soul walking in a field of ruins”, and draw a field of ruins, but specifically ruins from antiquity. So there’s an interaction going on between the words and the image : the words by which I describe myself are a metaphor for feeling devastated, but at the same time I show antique ruins, which adds to the total meaning something else, namely the grandeur of an empire. The author, then, expresses a somewhat outsized opinion of himself : ‘I am a field of ruins, but I was an empire.’ Comics make that kind of thing immediately available, they’re great for that, because a word and a slightly displaced image changes or opens the total meaning in a very powerful way. In that whole sequence I try to work with that.

    I also wanted to ask you about the choice to draw in this naturalist fashion. It’s very different from the work of many other autobiographical cartoonists, and because you talk about real events, it becomes a very clear choice on your part. You made this choice early on obviously – what were your thoughts ?

    It’s very difficult to answer that. Philippe Squarzoni has written an article on my work which answers that question, but I don’t quite recall all of it – it’s a very good article, very precise, and it’s going to be hard for me to explain, but yes, it’s a choice I made a long time ago and it makes all the difference. First of all, and very basically, I used to be a portrait painter and worked in a realist style, so I came to comics with a realist drawing style, based on observation from nature. That’s the basic explanation.

    Beyond that, the choice to draw realistically… I’m going to have a hard time explaining it here, but I believe that only from a realistic starting point can you deconstruct your drawing. If you start out with symbolic drawing, you can play around with it like with Legos, you can put it together in different ways, but you can’t move back toward realism. If you create a very cartoony character, like Tintin, you can’t ever draw his face realistically. It doesn’t work. Hergé had this problem : I’m thinking in particular of that spread where he has, I no longer remember which character opening a newspaper, and on that page there is a close-up view of what he is reading, and his thumbs are drawn in very large and very realistically, and it just doesn’t work.

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    It’s what – using terminology borrowed from photography – I call the problem of going from high resolution to low resolution. If you take a photo of someone far away, someone unclearly defined, very pixelated, you can’t then enlarge the image of that person and make it clear ; you can only loose definition. So, in order to give the illusion of deconstruction in drawing the widest possible expressive field, you have to start out with as realistic a style of drawing as possible, then all the levels below that are accessible. Once you’ve degraded, you can’t go back to high definition. With the exception, perhaps, of works like Maus : when you’re evoking very powerful historical events, I think you can make it work by drawing them in a rather minimalist manner and then at some point inserting photographs of the reality depicted, which allow an expanded understanding on the part of the reader.

    Doesn’t this high resolution basis present its own problems ? If we compare again with David B. and his “low resolution” style, he utilizes it to draw a world of symbols, to draw his consciousness, and he maintains a strict coherence, or stability, in his imagery. On the other hand, if you start out with a realist style and want to do something symbolical, isn’t there a risk of getting caught up in the forms and textures of the physical world ?

    It’s a risk. For each page, I ask myself whether I want to break with my basic style. I think that on certain pages, especially in volume 4, it doesn’t work. It’s a very real problem. But at the same time, I will always defend this precise, realist style because, as I said, it comes from portraiture, and I know this is very subjective, but for me it’s important to be able in my comics to go as far as possible in showing the reader an embodied experience – to show really subtle nuance, to suggest the erotic, the desire inspired by a certain pair of ears for example, or a neck… of course, one can also do this in other ways, drawing in a different style. Chris Ware, for example, in Jimmy Corrigan manages, even with his very stylized drawing, to show skin impurities… the doctor who examines Jimmy ; there’s a panel just of his mouth which is really gross. That works.

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    INEFFABLE DESIRE

    It is clear that sensuality is very, very important in your drawing.

    What’s important to me is embodiment. There are ideas and concepts, but what I have to tell isn’t just that.

    No, it’s physical.

    It’s physical, it’s embodied ; that’s also my life and I limit the reader’s liberty by imposing upon her or him very precisely portrayals of my desire. People often say, “you like strong, buff guys wit short hair, etc.,” but what really interests me are the small differences between two strong, buff guys with short hair that might on first glance appear the same. The scene with the sergeant ; when I had to draw that, I wondered who I was going to use as a model for him, and I ended up using three different guys. Somebody who isn’t attuned to that won’t see the difference – “a buff guy is a buff guy,” they’ll say, like a racist would say “a black is a black” or “all Japanese look the same.” I want to show that despite everything, each of these people has a very particular identity, and it is only by drawing very realistically that I can do that. At a few points in the book, I draw a guy that looks like Dominique, and the way I draw makes you, the reader, doubt whether it is indeed him or not, until I tell you, because you’ve gotten used to see Dominique as I draw him.

    Yes, that wouldn’t be possible with photographs, but in comics…

    Yes, exactly, in comics you can play with the information conveyed by an image ; I also explore that with numbers : three-six-nine – those are multiples, but they’re also different numbers, and I use that device… I don’t know whether it’s clear or not, really, sometimes, but I use that device to put across that what’s important to me in my desire is the tiny, tiny, microscopic variations in a face that, I think for all of us, trigger our desire. I mean, you’re attracted to someone, you don’t know why, and at the same time, someone else who resembles him won’t necessarily be attractive to you. Desire emerges in the ineffable particularity of a face.

    And that isn’t just physical, there’s also…

    No, there’s also gesture, there are many things. I focused a lot on Dominique’s face, but sometimes it was also his way of holding a cigarette, of putting his hands in his pockets. And the same goes for “Émile” – Antoine – whose expressions are totally different and that, for me, is very, very important, and very moving, to draw. Whether I succeed, I don’t know, but that’s what I hope to achieve. I want to make it clear that these aren’t characters, but people. So even if you don’t know them, I think the reader will understand that behind what I show there is somebody real ; it’s not just a paper character.

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    But with the sergeant that’s not the case, because he’s a construction.

    No, because I didn’t have a picture of him [laughs] and, yes, what I wanted to portray was a fantasy. He was real, but I didn’t have an image of his face, so I did this sequence where I’m thinking ‘this could be him, this could be him, that could be him’… that part wasn’t in the original version. There, I write that he looks like Stéphane from the first volume. And he’s also the character I use for my science fiction story – he’s a morphotype.

    Let’s talk some more about your decision to augment that particular scene, to make it more explicit. What do you think that adds to the scene ?

    It permits me to foreground two important moments later in the book. In the original version, I think you understand that the sergeant…

    I found that later scene very moving in the original version, because you suddenly understand that something important happened earlier that you didn’t see. It helps convey the significance of that experience with a certain delay, which increases the effect.

    Yes, but my reasoning there was that “this time I’ll draw what happened, and I think you’ll understand even better, when that scene reappears, that yes, that’s it, he told it exactly as it happened to him.” There’s that, and there’s also the image that recurs very often, for example with the man in the “video” episode and with Dominique and I, this kind of symbolic scene that is kind of lifted from the way cosmic beings are sometimes presented in Marvel comics, this kind of meeting… [laughter]

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    But you don’t think it’s too much to have that passage, with the sergeant, in there twice ?

    You find it to be too much ?

    I don’t know, but I really liked the way it arrives so suddenly, and with a significant delay, in the original.

    Well, if I did it, it’s because I thought it was important… maybe not necessary, but it was important to me to take a little more time with this sergeant, because he was important to my life. He was this ultimate fantasy that was suddenly right there, and especially because he was actually willing to see the narrator again, and like an idiot, I told him, “no, I’ll see you around the way,” and he never came back. This makes you understand better why, after he left, I feel negated, and I actually show how it was this idiot’s own fault [laughs].

    You could have seen him again, and…

    I could have seen him again, and I try to explain that this is not the fault of others. I totally wasted this great shot at happiness that was just handed to me.

    In your exhibition you’ve included several pages that are not in the book, which are even more explicit than the ones you have added. What are your thoughts on depicting sex in a book like this ?

    Yes, it’s complicated…

    To me, the way you’ve augmented the scene gives a more distinctly physical accent, a sense of realness. That this meeting did happen and was clearly important…

    Yes, yes, thanks.

    But on the other hand I understand why you didn’t include those other pages. With those, it would have become a little too pornographic.

    An indulgence. I realized that those pages didn’t really make sense, so I stopped and scrapped them. The representation of sex isn’t easy. It’s not anodyne, it’s not innocent, it’s not easy. By leaving out those pages, I think the scene works well now in the context of the book as a whole, with the pages I did add. If I had put those extra ones in, I think it would have been thrown off course – it would have been too much, much too much. It’s difficult. I could have expanded plenty more scenes in the book, and in other books too, but you get to a point where it’s just too much.

    When I saw those pages, I wondered why you don’t have more sex scenes in your work – it’s obviously an important part of life for everyone, and certainly in your work.

    Yes. In this case, because it’s such a big book, it was important to have the sex right at the beginning, in order to show, too, that there’s none in the rest of the book. The narrator doesn’t have any sexual relation after that, or at least so little that it doesn’t matter, and this coincides with the appearance of Dominique, with whom he never has sex. Showing the sexual encounter at the beginning becomes a way of emphasizing the frustration that follows.

    I see. But have you made a choice generally in your work not to show too much sex in order to avoid the risk of the kind of indulgence you mentioned ?

    Yes, I sometimes really want to include more [laughs]. I think that today I might be able to pull it off more easily than earlier. So I think there’ll maybe be more in my future work, because I feel ready to tackle it. The reason I haven’t so far is because I wasn’t ready, and also for the reasons we’ve talked about : it wouldn’t make sense. But yes, I want to deal more directly with it now.

    It’s a part of reality.

    It’s a part of reality. And the usual ideal is to show it in this kind of lush way, like in porn : everyone orgasms, the women are happy, and the men too – but this encounter with the sergeant, which was very exciting to me, wasn’t that. The guy tried to achieve penetration but didn’t succeed because it hurt, and we stopped. Despite its significance to me, it was a somewhat failed encounter with a guy whose attention quickly drifted elsewhere ; he talked a little about me making a portrait of his sister and then left. And I, like an idiot, was just like “well, ok, bye” [laughter]. It’s not the kind of lovemaking scene we know from fiction, where they kiss, then fellate each other, after which there’s penetration and they both come simultaneously, after which they smoke a cigarette in the afterglow. So, if I choose to include more scenes of sex from now on, it’s also to show the diversity of sexual experience, and occasionally to show really happy encounters that don’t necessarily conform to that ideal. We’ll see.

    You make an interesting and sort of surprising choice. The narration in the captions isn’t direct, which lends to this otherwise intimate scene a sense of distance.

    Yes, yes. Whereas in the pages I didn’t include, the text is direct, which doesn’t work.

    Yes, but it’s also the way they’re drawn, this…

    Complaisance ?

    Yes, it also creates a distance, it makes it feel artificial.

    But at the same time, that is actually lived experience : it’s the detail with the shoes. The narrator, well me, in that moment wasn’t totally in it, because I suddenly found myself looking at those shoes, and I didn’t get it : here I was, with the most beautiful guy in the world, and I’m still thinking of something else. And alas, that actually happens frequently in real life : you see somebody beautiful, or find yourself in a really wonderful place, and suddenly – whoops ! – you miss it.

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    And the narration here helps convey that.

    Not necessarily, but here, in order to incorporate it into the book, it was necessary.

    So it wasn’t a choice you made in order to avoid the problems of representing sex directly ?

    No. No, it wasn’t just that.

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    THINGS LEFT UNSAID

    OK. I have another question. When I heard about the augmented version of the book, I immediately thought of the scene, in the original, where you meet Dominique and he says something that you don’t want to repeat in the book. I wondered whether you were going to do so now, in the expanded version. But since you didn’t I imagine there are still a number of things that you’ve left suppressed.

    Yes, there are still things…

    Are you going to do another augmentation one day ? [laughs]

    No, I don’t think so. The book now has everything that needed to be in there. The most important thing was the video. And yes, I could have been cruel, because the worst things anybody said about that whole episode were said by Dominique. But I couldn’t put those in there – it would have been very mean-spirited. And for no purpose. I think the portrait of Dominique that I create is sufficiently clear that the reader understands that this is not a fool, but somebody who is a little cynical. If I put in the things he said on that man they filmed, it would really have been very, very unpleasant and people would believe I did it to get back at him. He said some really, really horrible things back then. Anyway, I decided not to include them. And he, the real Dominique, when he received the first edition of the book, told me that he thought I could have been much more of a dick with him [laughter]. That was a compliment, actually !

    picture 14

    To finish up, I wanted to ask about what you said earlier [during the Angoulême on-stage interview] about your current work, this sense that it’s almost impossible for you to continue depicting people for fear of the problems that it might cause – this is a central theme in your story “Émile”, or course. Do you see any possibility of continuing despite these problems ?

    [Chuckles] Well, with “Émile” it’s possible, because – there he is [points toward a photo on the wall] – he has authorized my depicting him. But there’s another, more recent encounter, the young man over there [points to another photo], who has succeeded legally in preventing my depicting him. If I draw him, I can be prosecuted. So I can’t really answer your question. What I do know is that I can’t continue if I can’t draw people. It’s fundamental to me, it’s my entire life. I think I’m ready to go very far, even sacrifice my life, to be able to draw a person who I love. And it is very, very risky ; I risk problems with the police, which makes it extremely hard… but yes, it’s possible to continue, but I’ve gone about as far as I can. I mean this [taps the book], if Dominique wanted to sue me, he would win the case and the book would be withdrawn from the trade. But Dominique, who told me that he thought I could have been harder on him, and who is an artist himself, also said, “I appreciate the book as a work of art, so being an artist I can’t tell you that you don’t have the right to do it.” But not everyone is that smart ; not everyone understands that even if I make a really nice book for them… if they don’t want it… anyway, I don’t have an answer for you, except that everything I do, I do at an increasing risk.

    It seems clear that the problems you’ve had are of a kind that might stop you from doing this kind of work entirely and force you to do something else.

    Yes, that’s the risk.

  • Books by

  • JOURNAL (1) suivi de JOURNAL (2)
  • JOURNAL (4)
  • coffret JOURNAL
  • JOURNAL (3) édition augmentée
  • EGO COMME X n°7
  • EGO COMME X n°5
  • EGO COMME X n°4
  • EGO COMME X n°3


  • Free reading online :

  • Émile (english version)
  • Émile
  • Alex ou la vie d’après
  • NEAUD SQUARZONI MUSSAT


  • Other interviews :
    written
    - Portrait du dessinateur
    - Préface au Journal (1) suivi de Journal (2)
    - Postface à la réédition du Journal (3)
    - Conférence aux Beaux-Arts de Lyon
    - Débat avec Philippe Squarzoni
    - Sur l’ensemble de son travail
    - Du Journal (1) au Journal (4)

    multimedia