With the sixth volume of The Arab of the future, the Franco-Syrian author closes his cult series between drama and humor. Here, in preview, the first two boards.
With the publication on November 24 of volume 6 of The Arab of the futurewhich covers the years 1994-2011, Riad Sattouf closes an autobiographical cycle that has become an editorial phenomenon: since 2014, series has sold more than three million copies and been translated into more than twenty-three languages.
Accessible to everyone
A success linked to the originality and power of the story, and facilitated by its accessibility, to which the author of the Notebooks of Esther (2016) did a lot of work, as he freely confesses: “I’m obsessed with making comics that are readable by people who don’t read comics. My first reader, in my mind, is my Breton grandmother. I wish she was able to appreciate The Arab of the future. I work on the rhythm, on the drawing, on the dialogues, constantly keeping in mind the idea that everyone should be able to immerse themselves in my work. One of the compliments that give me the most pleasure is when parents and grandparents send me photos of their child or teenager holding The Arab of the future in his hands, with the caption: “I don’t know what got into him, he chained the five volumes!”
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We find in this final part a hero not exactly out of the thankless age (“In 1994, I am 16 years old and I am a semi-psychopath”), his mother, who remains desperate by the kidnapping of the youngest, Fadi, by Abdel, the father of his three sons returned to Syria, and aging Breton grandparents, who no longer know which saint to devote themselves to. Exit the yellow of Libya and the pink of Syria of the first albums, which made it possible to embody the change of scenery through color: as in volume 5, cartoonist immerses us in the blue and white coldness of France, with here and there touches of red emphasizing both the physical absence of the father and his omnipresence in the thoughts of his eldest, literally haunted by the paternal voice which scandalized by everything that he himself saw or saw…
The designer immerses us in the coldness all in blue and white of France
If it reveals what happened to Abdel and Fadi, this volume 6 also has the tremendous interest of telling at the same time how its author became the artist he is today – the discovery of the work of Bilal, Druillet and Moebius, the workshop shared with Christophe Blain, Joann Sfar and Mathieu Sapin, the years of training, of a rabid cow (and psychotherapy).
“The best times of my childhood and teenage years were when I poked my nose into novels and comics, and I’m really happy to see others experimenting with that in turn with my own albums. I loved and continue to love making comics because I was deeply affected by the first ones I read as a child. It made me want to try to recreate this shock in readers… It’s a bit what I tell in this last volume, for the rest.
Clever mix of tones
However, the director of beautiful kidss (2009) assures us that he describes less his family and his life than he elaborates the romantic from reality: “I select the elements of the story, I determine the arrangement and the rhythm, I can devote two pages to episodes that lasted either two hours or two years, and that changes everything…” He nevertheless reveals how many of the recurring themes and motifs of his work were born, such as the skilful proportioning of tones, between drama and humour, the extraordinarily precise restitution of sensations and feelings – from the scent of her aunts’ sweat to that of her teenage love! – or even the desire to capture parts of reality “that comics had never shown before”. So with the violence that permeates human relationships, with their oddity, their sometimes absurdity.