Saturday 17 April 2021
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.theguardian - 2 month ago

Parenthesis by Élodie Durand review – gripping graphic memoir about the joy of recovery

The French artist deftly evokes the fog and fear of illness and the thrill of getting betterThere are so many good graphic memoirs about illness: when it comes to ill-defined symptoms, and to the way that time contracts and expands in the sickroom, comics seem to reach places that words cannot. But Élodie Durand’s Parenthesis, which has already won several awards in her native France, really is extraordinary: a book I began to think of as a classic even before I’d finished it. If its author is expert in the matter of pain – able to convey the qualities of a headache in a single, scrawled black line – she’s even better on the ticking of the clock. As its title suggests, Durand wants to know what it means for the future when the present is paused – and thanks to this, its publication in English could hardly have come at a better, more resonant moment.Durand drew Parenthesis a decade after the events it describes. When it begins, she’s in her early 20s, a fine-art graduate who’s working on a big mural in the basement of a hospital just outside Paris. For a long time, she has suffered from what her family describes as “spells”: periods when, pale and shaking, she can only stare into nothingness, and which she can never remember herself afterwards. But now they start to get worse. A neurologist diagnoses her with epilepsy, and the drugs he prescribes work for a little while. Pretty soon, though, she begins a terrible descent. She sleeps more and more. She is able to function less and less. Her memory disappears, and with it, everything she has ever learned – including, at one point, her own name. What’s happening? A brain scan reveals an inoperable tumour. Her only hope is an experimental “gamma knife”. Continue reading...


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