Sunday, 10 March 2019

In Review - ‘Alone’ by Chaboute.


Created by Chaboute.

368 pages - Black and White - £15.99.

Published by Faber and Faber - 2018.

Originally published by Glenat at ‘Tout Seul’ in 2008.

The Story - ‘On a tiny lighthouse island far from the rest of the world, a hermit lives out his existence. Every week a supply boat leaves provisions, yet the fishermen never leave their boat, and never meet him.

Years spent on this deserted rock, with imagination his sole companion, has made the lighthouse keeper something more than alone, something else entirely. For him, what lies beyond the horizon might be... nothing. And so, why would you ever want to leave? But, one day, as curiosity gets the better of him, a new boatman steps onto the island…’

The Review - I got some vouchers from work and picked this up off a shelf in the Forbidden Plant on a whim. The cover has that feeling to it that perhaps we all seek, that mood where all we want is to be left alone to look out of the window. About five pages into this long book I fell in love with the pace and the art.

There are no big explosions or shoot-outs as this is a very quiet and slow book. I say neither ‘slow’ nor ‘quiet’ as any form of criticism just the opposite. This is emotion written silently and slowly in rough edged black inks on a spacious white and cold background. You move slowly through this small and insular canvas and discover the world at a perfectly delivered and executed speed. But it strangely never seems at peace with itself or even tranquil. The images and narrative push you forwards to a conclusion that may well surprise you. You feel every single glance between characters and every single splash of the sea on the rocky dock.

There is also very little dialogue. You feel the wind rattling at your eardrums and the stunning silence builds as the book unfolds. It slowly lifts and puts in place it’s building blocks and I never at any point wanted it to be any faster. As an example I would add that it takes some twenty-two pages before the comic reveals a human face of anyone and one hundred and two pages before we see the Hermit albeit briefly in silhouette against the seascape. Once he is revealed you move in with him and watch as the drama slowly reveals it’s intentions.

This Hermit is a man who looks similar to those popular depictions of the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is unkempt and not someone who could be considered handsome but you warm over and over and over to him as he discovers what lays beyond the horizon. He is a dreamer and this allows Chaboute to take flourishes and flights of his own fantasy. The Hermit dreams of the battles that his dusty old toy soldiers could have fought through. He makes use of his dictionary and after discovering the word ‘metaphor’ day dreams of it raining tennis balls on a crowd of people with their umbrellas opened.

In fact it’s this dictionary that takes centre stage and pushed the Hermit on to both dream and at least consider what else there is for him to try. Every day he opens this book and picks a word at random, sometimes the book almost seems to sense his situation and mood - it’s a great story technique. I wont go further for fear of spoiling this incredible book.

All I will say however is that when you read the line: ‘Is there anything special you would like?’ The hairs on the back of your neck will shuffle about in anticipation.

The themes and moments of this book are simultaneously sad and enriching. It speaks to imprisonment, freedom, interdependency, loneliness, friendship and how we should all push ourselves to discover what is beyond our own garden gate.

How have I not heard of this before? Very highly recommended!

Find this book here

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