Monday, July 11, 2016

Nicolas by Pascal Girard, translated by Helge Dascher

After years of cramming books in wherever they fit, I finally decided to redo my bookshelves. This has led to some intense re-reading, and in some cases, reading that had been left undone. Nicolas is one of those books I couldn't not buy, but also couldn't read the past several years.

 Nicolas is an autobiographical comic about the author's brother dying when they were both children. Told in flashes, almost like scrolling through the lowlights reel of grief, this short book cut right to what the legacy of a loss does to a person and their relationships. Girard's style is like a looser, sketchier Jeffrey Brown with some John Porcellino thrown in, which works well to express extreme feelings with humor.

Despite feeling incredible familiarity with the trials of Pascal, Girard's work is refreshing. It shows so simply how the absurdity of such a loss makes you weird (and in what ways). I love how Girard gets into how the fear it instills is not easily navigated, and how it changes as you get older, with emphasis on being a jerk in bars and hurting the people who love you romantically because you know that "it" doesn't only happen to other people. The tension between trying to remember your lost sibling and living your own life is also explored here, most especially on the page where a young Pascal asks his mother if he can sled at a friend's and his mother responds, in what I can only imagine is a distant voice: "Did you realize that Nicolas would have been eight years old today?" That sense of being snapped out of the present over and over is so particular and peculiar--glad that Girard included it.
my breath caught

After reading Nicolas, I felt less alone, which is perhaps the highest compliment possible. If you have someone in your life that's lost a sibling, get this book. I hope it helps you understand them better.

Link to the new expanded hardcover here.