We are about to conclude our reading theme on comics, and what better way than combine this theme with our annual theme featuring international or translated literature.
Pretending Is Lying [Amazon | Book Depository]
Created by Dominique Goblet Translated by Sophie Yanow in collaboration with the author
Published by New York Review Comics 2017 (first published in 2007) Original Title Faire semblant c’est mentir
ISBN:1681370476 (ISBN13: 9781681370477). Bought a copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.
When I found out that NYRB has a comic imprint, and a translated one to boot, I made sure I purchased a copy of Goblet’s graphic novel memoir. In keeping with the title, however, there are attempts to remove a factual, documentary style to the storytelling. Rather, there is a makeshift, stream-of-consciousness flow to the narrative that is compelling and visceral – with the author herself being fully conscious of what she is leaving out, what she is including, what she imagines – as make-believe blends in with the real, with the lies of omission/commission, and the elevated art of pretense.
Goblet’s storytelling also acutely enters into family members’ recollections of a shared history that is remembered so strikingly different by each individual, their singular interpretations a product of their own hurts and pains and joys that suggest how the past is a re-construction that essentially suits our preferences, and justifies our current worldview.
Goblet’s interactions with both her parents, her father especially, were emotionally fraught and exhausting – with mixed signals and hopelessly saddled with an inability to form connections.
I was also moved by how she portrayed her moon-eyed affection towards her lover, Guy Marc, who is obviously not over his previous relationship – and it is fully captured in Goblet’s art, with the “other” woman a constant invisible, ghost-like presence, a perennial third party to their relationship:
That is why I did not know how to feel about Guy Marc’s writing the afterword, where he spoke about the necessary reinvention that is part and parcel of creating art based on one’s own experiences:
.. what is my role, I who intervenes in a story that is supposed to be autobiography? Restructure, reinvent the relationships, so be it. But what about my character? His disturbed and deceitful appearance only escapes my own disapproval because of this stepping back that is in itself the act of writing – it’s indeed a character (composed of guilt, dread, suffering, etc.) that I attempt to bring to life within the structure of the book. In this way we become intelligible and unregretful. Everything can be approached without fear or remorse. Why? Because it is not just about life itself but about Art (the omniscient, unassailable power of art). (p. 148)
While I did find him to be without redemption in the story, I also wondered how Dominique and Guy’s relationship may have evolved with the birth of this book that exposes duplicity, inconstancy, and embellishes it with laser-beam truths clothed in pencil sketches portraying a reality that is now positioned neither here nor there. It is quite Shakespearean in that it embodies “All the world’s a stage” quite perfectly.
This is a graphic memoir that would definitely stay with me for a long time.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Belgium (translated from the French)