The five episodes of Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat (2002-2006), recently published in English translation in two volumes (2007-2008), and particularly the latest instalment of the series, Africa's Jerusalem, are rich in meta-narrative and meta-iconic elements. By staging various theological arguments about aniconism in Abrahamic religions, Sfar uses the comics medium to reflect on the prohibition of graphic representation in Judaism and Islam (following the Jyllands-Posten Danish cartoons controversy and the trial of the French satirical magazine Charlie-Hebdo ). He also distances his work from the usual Western stance on realistic mimesis and its pseudo-scientific epistemology by criticising the European constructs of race and exoticism. Between the anti-iconic prohibition of the East and the false iconicity of the West, Sfar finds a middle ground in the anonymous character of a Russian painter travelling through Africa in the 1930s, whose physical appearance and biographical background recall that of famous Franco-Russian Jewish painter, Marc Chagall. This article will explore how the painter's cultural hybridity and artistic idiosyncrasy allow Sfar to negotiate a perspective on graphic representation which resolves the problem of simulacrum as it is framed in this binary opposition. It will also discuss the manners in which Sfar borrows from Chagall's aesthetics and magic realism in the process, thus creating a new kind of image in the realm of comics.
The Politics of Visual Representation in The Rabbi's Cat
Depicting Cajun Ethnicity in Bec Doux et ses amis
The Bec Doux et ses amis comics series, written by Cajun authors in Cajun French, is little known outside of its native French-speaking Louisiana. Although it can be inscribed within the wider Cajun ethnic revival that began in the late 1960s, it constitutes a unique example of graphic self-representation in this field of cultural productions. This article examines how the series' use of regional French, in the context of increasing acculturation by a dominant English-speaking America, is not only a statement of cultural resistance, but also a creative negotiation of communication with a dialectal readership, within the comics format. The article also focuses on the iconic effectiveness of the series, and more specifically on its nuanced and authentic depiction of the Cajun minority's ethnic habitus, in order to understand the complexities of such cultural self-caricature.
Meta-Representation and Magic Realism in Joann Sfar's Chagall en Russie
French cartoonist and filmmaker Joann Sfar has often used the comics medium to reflect on visual representation. His latest bande dessinée, Chagall en Russie ['Chagall in Russia'] (2010-2011), continues some of the meta-pictural elements previously found in his Pascin (2000-2002), which already featured Chagall in several episodes, as well as his acclaimed series, The Rabbi's Cat, where Sfar introduced the character of an anonymous Russian painter, whose biography and artistic stance seemingly referred to that of Marc Chagall. Although Chagall en Russie explicitly refers to the real-life Franco-Russian modernist painter, it is certainly not a standard biographical exercise. By offering a synthetic and often symbolic version of personal and historical events experienced by Chagall, Sfar takes certain liberties with the painter's life story as it was outlined by the artist (in My Life, his 1922 autobiography) and by many biographers and art historians. Sfar does not seek an authentic depiction of his subject's verifiable life journey, but rather views it through a metaphorical narrative, which is itself inspired by Chagall's artistic universe and raises questions about the figurative possibilities of comics.
James Baker, Farid Boudjellal, Morgan Di Salvia, Anna Giaufret, Pascal Lefèvre, Fabrice Leroy, and Morvandiau
Notes on contributors
Clare Tufts, Joe Sutliff Sanders, Mark McKinney, Leroy Fabrice, Murray Pratt, Benoît Mitaine, Catherine Labio, Jan Baetens, and Anne Magnussen
FESTIVAL AND CONFERENCE REVIEWS
Angoulême 2013, Festival International de la Bande Dessinée (FIBD), 31 January–3 February
The 2013 Joint International Comics and Bande Dessinée Conference, Scotland, 24–28 June
2012 American Bande Dessinée Society Conference, Miami University, Oxford, OH, 2–3 November
Groupe ACME, L'Association: Une utopie éditoriale et esthétique [L'Association: An Editorial and Aesthetic Utopia]
Thierry Groensteen, Entretiens avec Joann Sfar [Conversations with Joann Sfar]
Jean-Marc Pontier, Lectures de David B. [Reading David B.] and Nicolas de Crécy: Périodes graphiques [Nicolas de Crealcy: Graphic Periods]
Vicent Sanchis, Tebeos mutilados: La Censura franquista contra Editorial Bruguera [Mutilated Comics: The Franquist Censorship of Editorial Bruguera]
Elisabeth El Refaie, Autobiographical Comics: Life Writing in Pictures
Jean-Noël Lafargue, Entre la plèbe et l'élite: Les Ambitions contraires de la bande dessinée [Between Plebs and the Elite: The Contradictory Ambitions of Comics]