Why Sartre today?

SARTRE

This graphic novel about Sartre’s life is being published in the US by NBM, in a pessimistic era and in a global political context that, in short, can be described as worrying and freedom-destroying. “The story of a life is the story of a failure”. Sartre was amused by his own irony in writing that we are constantly running after that which makes us incoherent, dissatisfied, incomplete beings: desire.

 

However Sartre and his existentialism were not pessimistic. It was important to me to show his full personality in this graphic novel. His entire life was crossed by desires; as incoherent and misunderstood as they might be by his contemporaries as well as the reader of today. These days I appreciate more his partner Simone de Beauvoir and her work as a feminist, but at that time I wanted to continue to develop my thoughts and writings on him.

interior ort.indd

In 2011 at 23 years old, I graduated in Contemporary Philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, the school where Sartre also studied. This field of study “Contemporary Philosophy” inncludes philosophy which followed the great revolutions in thinking by Nietzsche, Marx and Freud, to today. My thesis I defended was on Sartre’s attraction to psychoanalysis. This attraction is a story of love and hate; as a thinker of his time, Sartre wanted to go deeper into the Freud-Marxist legacy. He was extremely interested in one of the most important revolutions in the XIXth century. He was excited and afraid of the idea that the human psyche comes with a dark zone called “the unconscious”, and we finally acquired the tools to explore it, like a new language or a forgotten Atlantis.

interior ort.indd

Sartre was deeply attracted by this perspective, only it was impossible for him to admit that this unconscious is ruling us, deciding things for us, driving us with dreams and Freudian slips. I wanted to look at the reason why. Sartre actually strongly believed that human beings are ALWAYS free and that they only decide for themselves, alone. This counteraction between the two concepts of unconscious and freedom haunted him his whole life. He never underwent psychoanalysis himself but instead wrote several books about artists and writers to vicariously experience the analysis process. These writings he poetically called “existential psychoanalysis”. He published texts and essays about Baudelaire (Baudelaire), Jean Genet (Saint Genet, Actor and Martyr), Tintoretto (The Sequestered of Venice), Gustave Flaubert (The Family Idiot)… and himself (The Words).

interior ort.indd

We could criticize him for being so stubborn to the point of writing an unreadable 3000 pages on Flaubert to “psychoanalyze” him and therefore completely avoid the main concept of psychoanalysis. Ironically, he came to the same conclusion as Freud; a psychoanalysis is endless (even if not useless). Maybe he pursued the question of the unconsciousness not out of intellectual curiosity but fear. Sartre was approaching death at the time of the writing of this colossal book and was using many destructive drugs. It was also the time when he missed the ’68 revolution in Paris and was accused by the youth of being a bourgeois writer; an intellectual who stayed in his comfy office writing on lofty issues while the streets were on fire.

 

As he was emphatically defending freedom he did indeed forget his privileged social milieu (born in the tony Saint-Germain-des-Prés, he received the best education possible). How then, could he dare to say that violence can be justified, if its noble aim is to defend freedom? Or that a slave somehow always has a choice, even if the only one way of escaping is in thought?

 

This graphic novel definitely does not solve these complex philosophical-political problems. My aim was to make them visible by showing the man behind these strong ideas and inconsistencies. “The little man” as his “amour nécessaire”, Simone de Beauvoir, called him affectionately. He was a stubborn man who loved life and people. An Epicurean who loved to travel and party. A radical artist who only used drugs for philosophy and not for literature, as literature had to stay “pure”.

interior ort.indd

While criticizing him, we could also give him credit where credit is due. As a young writer, I admit that I was charmed by his obsession for freedom, his relationship with Simone de Beauvoir and their many famous friends. In Sartre, I wanted to show the sexy and sometimes dirty back-stages, distilling anecdotes that are least well-known about him and Simone de Beauvoir. Also to show that it is not completely hopeless to cling to the defense of all kinds of freedoms, even at a time when the world seems to draw the outlines of an existential prison.

See the new Sartre book and stay tuned for artist Anais Depommier’s tour starting next week!

Advertisements

Equinoxes: “The First Page “

cover orttt.indd

Comics has a common point with golf, Thai cooking, and probably most human endeavors.
If you keep practicing it for years, eight to twelve hours per day, you end up acquiring a kind of expertise.
But this expertise does not prepare you for when, once your script is finished, the question comes: “how to draw this story?”
No, not ‘a story’ in a general sense, this particular story, the one you just wrote.
Does it require a very controlled style, or conversely, a more spontaneous one? What degree of realism is necessary for it? Will color pencils give a better rendering than ink or brush of the characters’ emotions?

For a few years now, I’ve become convinced (and it may be one of my few theories I’m certain of on the matter) that the style of drawing, the choice of graphic form has a profound influence on the narration.
The consequence of this conviction has been to forget about having one ‘style’, a regular way of drawing, but find the right form for each new book.
I reach that goal too scarcely to my taste, constrained by my technical limits, but I push myself nevertheless.
Some books even require changing styles while in the story. In the case of Equinoxes, it seemed necessary to differentiate each season.
The characters go in the direction of their summer, from shadow to light, and the drawing needed to participate in this progression.
Drawing the first page of this book was drawing the first step in this progression.

To achieve this, I used a secret method used by many authors.
This consists in going around your drawing table, look at the white sheet, drink some coffee, smoke some cigarettes, get up to read your e-mails, return to the drawing table, get up[ again to go do some shopping, come back to the drawing table, get back up to see if any new emails came in, etc, etc…
All this for a number of days without managing to draw one single line.
You have no idea whatsoever how to draw this story and it’d be best to change careers. You sleep little, have a stomach ache, you’re utterly ridiculous.
But, after a while, the anxiety is so strong you draw anything, whatever, as it comes to you, instinctively.
And this ‘whatever’ bizarrely becomes the first page of the book.

This first version of the first page of the prologue to Fall enabled me to draw the second, then another, etc… in their first version, these first pages looked like this:

blogart1

blogart2

blogart3

A few months later, having gotten to the Winter prologue, I finally found a style which seemed more appropriate for these parts of the narration.
It was essential all the prologues have the same style, so I had to redraw these first 15 pages.
Accepting that you will make mistakes to find something seems an implacable rule.

See more about Equinoxes

Come meet me on my North American Tour