To this simple question, the author generally tries to provide a simple, concise answer with possibly a touch of humor, intelligence and modesty so as to put forward his best foot, both for himself and his work without seeming pretentious.
However, amongst all the possible answers, experience tells me “I’m not really sure…” is the least recommended.
And yet this might be the most sincere, for many reasons.
The first is the inevitable and depressing permanent gap between what you start off trying to accomplish in a book and the result you laboriously end up with. You start a book with the ambition of building a cathedral, but you often end up with the feeling you’ve barely slapped together a shaky wood cabin.
The second reason, much less depressing but just as inevitable, is the difference between what you think objectively you’ve portrayed in a book and what each reader will subjectively get out of it. You think you’ve told a modern tragedy but some readers are convinced they’ve read a sarcastic comedy, while others see in it a series of off-the-wall tales. Go figure who’s right.
The third is the frightening propensity of humans, authors included, to act consciously while animated by unconscious wishes. You thought you were talking about a cantankerous queen; you realize years later that was your mother.
So in fact, to try to answer this question seriously, it’s sometimes necessary to go around it and in particular to go back up to the origins of a story.
The starting point of Equinoxes is a series of monologues written in my notebooks.They were descriptions of brief moments of introspection as we all go through, fed by confused and contradictory thoughts. Moments where fear of failure, frustration, regrets, fleeting desires, hopes for a better life, disappointments with friends, the joys of love, etc… emerge within us and disappear just as quickly. We forget them and, of course, share them with no one. However, these interior monologues tell us as much if not more than our actions and our spoken words.
These texts seemed to sketch out roughly portraits of these characters of which I knew nothing, other than their fleeting feelings. Who were these characters, the links between them, and from where came this desire to evoke these interior thoughts?
The only solution open to me to answer these types of questions is to do comics.
This is how the story constructed itself. Interior voices were born from the characters, the characters were born from the stories, and, little by little, their destinies crissed-crossed each others’, creating a common story.
At times there are elements of engagement, political militancy, disappointed friendships, rambles through the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, feelings of love, Christian faith, and more globally some pretty serious existential crises.
The original texts have been reshaped many times but they have remained in this ‘literary’ form in the book. And they summarize, possibly, its subject, what it ‘talks about:’ the strange paradox of human existence. The Other is a stranger. He/she is as inaccessible to us as we are to her or him. Yet, we desperately need to be in touch with each other.
And from this common lot, this banal tragedy, can be born at times the miracle of beauty, utopia, feelings of love.
Sketches done in the New York subway, summer 2015
See more about his Equinoxes, coming in September.