Note: This blog post is written for SLIS 672 at IU, Spring 2013
For this week we read The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi which I thoroughly enjoyed. This graphic novel was originally written in French which got me thinking about France/ French-speaking-countries and their comics. In undergrad, my major was French and although we were never assigned to read a full comic you can bet we occasionally read a section from Asterix by René Goscinny or Tintin by Hergé.
Comics, les bandes dessinées (“BD”), are very popular in France. In the US it seems like many people are of the opinion that comics are not for everyone. It’s definitely changing and more and more people are reading comics, but there’s still that stereotype of the comic reader in the US that persists, and many people see it as a sub-culture. In France, it was my observation that comics are widely accepted and read by all kinds of different people.
I studied abroad in Pau, France during spring semester 2010. Near the end of my time there, I did a short internship at a library. Unfortunately, I just went to their website and found out that library is now closed. Anyway, in the US when you walk into a library generally the first things you will come upon are new release/ popular books and the children’s section. That’s because these are two of the most popular areas. At this library in France, the first section one came upon when walking inside was the graphic novels. And for the size of the library (which was fairly small), they had quite a large collection. I spent a lot of my time assisting in circulation, and I saw all kinds of different people browsing and checking out materials from the BD collection.
I did a little bit of research about French comics, and discovered that France has an international comics festival each year: Festival de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême. Each year, they give awards for the best works. The author of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, won in 2005 for Poulet aux Prunes- Chicken With Plums (also made into a movie which will be released on dvd in the US Feb 26). Last year, the award went to Chroniques de Jérusalem- Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle which we will be reading for class in a few weeks! A few of the other winners have had English translations and US publications, but unfortunately many have not.
I looked at the current top selling BD at FNAC which is a popular bookstore and it seemed to be a combination of original French comics and US adaptations (Walking Dead, Spiderman, Avengers, X-Men). I wish more of the popular French comics would get a US publication. It seems to be a very respected form there so I’m sure there are many great titles that could be enjoyed by a wider audience.