The maroon binding of Pachyderme has called to me from many a Graphic Novel section shelf. After years of picking it up, flipping through it and thinking, “another time,” I finally got around to reading a copy from the San Francisco Public Library.
I knew this graphic novel by Swiss cartoonist Frederik Peeters was not going to be a casual read. The woman suspended in air on the front cover portends the ominous suspended reality this book explores. There is a foreword written by the accomplished French cartoonist Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius 1938 – 2012) that says everything anyone could ever hope to say about the quality of Peeters’ story and illustrations.
Giraud writes, “Pachyderme is the perfect example of a vivid and poetic graphic novel that succeeds in conveying a sense of the unconscious, of true master. I have the feeling Pachyderme remains mysterious even to its author, who let his tale wander where his pen took it, live its own life, while paying close attention to storytelling and the quality of his art.”
Much like the space between waking and dreaming, the story and art range from hyper realistic to completely nonsensical. Giraud uses the word, “oneric,” or dreamlike to describe this oscillation. This is a new word for me and I am excited to have it as a part of my vocabulary now!
The only problem with Giraud’s foreword is that it gives too much of the story away. So I suggest reading it after you have finished the book. I don’t want to review the plot or characters in detail because this book is best experienced firsthand and without any foreknowledge.
All you need to know is that the story is set in French speaking Switzerland in 1951 and that a woman is the central character.
Here are some of my favorite panels:
Save Pachyderme for a quiet day to yourself.