Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The City

I'm certain readers of my blog are becoming increasingly annoyed with references to my inamorato, just as readers of his blog are increasingly sick of references to The Countess. Well, they are not stopping any time soon, I'm glad to say.

On our second date (in some ways our first real date, as the first one wasn't referred to as such until after the fact), the man who is now my inamorato gave me a copy of the wordless graphic novel, The City by Frans Masereel. First published in 1925, it's a lovely piece of art, completely evocative of Berlin between the wars before Hitler's rise.

The series of one-hundred woodcuts show various scenes around an unnamed city. The birth of a child, a train station, workers in an office typing under the braying form of their employer, a barroom brawl, lovers floating off in a cloud of bliss, fireworks, murder, family dinner. It's an egalitarian view of the modern, urban world that still seems fresh.

Banned by the Nazis (who the Flemish Masereel hid from in the South of France) and embraced by the Communists, in life, Masereel remained apolitical, and though he had great sympathy for the downtrodden, was simply a humanist. His work was clearly a huge influence on Eric Drooker who works on scratchboard, particularly on his book Flood, I also see bits and pieces of him in Art Spiegelman's illustrations for The Wild Party. Will Eisner also cites him as a huge influence, and as Eisner influenced nearly everyone else, well, Masereel is mostly the father of the modern graphic novel.

I've become particularly fascinated with wordless novels and will be taking a look at a few in the coming weeks. Masereel's was one of the earliest and most influential.


That Fuzzy Bastard said...

Hunh---fascinating! Is it really a novel, though, or more a collection of graphic short stories?

Caviglia said...

I'd say a novel as it's just one thing, but there isn't really a good word for a series of thematically linked, book long wood-cuts without words.

IRL, I tend to call them Grown Up Picture Books.