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Pioneers of the Human Adventure. By Francois Boucq. Translated by Elizabeth Bell. New York: Catalan Communications, 1989. 48p. $10.95. ISBN 0-87416-075-8.

Fantasy, general fiction, surrealism

Adults, teens; mild violence, language, sophisticated situations

This is a book of 11 absurdist, satirical short pieces by an artist who specializes in such material. Stories range from "Adventures in Malaysia," in which soldiers seemingly come to life as a man reads to his mother, to "Pariahs of Nature," which tells of the beasts that frequent a water hole after dark and leave a handy construct for migrating gnus the next morning, to "Art for Art's Steak," about a creative butcher. City dwellers become jungle or Arctic dwellers, a rich woman goes shopping for new muscles for her scrawny husband, and African natives exchange insults with hippos and screw up the ritual for making the sun set.

Although as a rule I'm not fond of absurdist material and magic realism, I preferred these stories to those in Outer States. The ideas were more original, and within themselves they were more logically consistent. The full-color art is more grotesque overall than Bilal's; people are wrinkled and fat and ugly, short and stooped for the most part, with big thick lips and huge noses. (The only human figure that is genuinely beautiful is a fantasy construct.) There are some fairly unpleasant moments depicted in the stories, such as when a man bites a growth off the shoulder of his lady love.

This would be a good book for adult readers of a literary bent, fans of Boucq, and collections of European graphic novels. It's not a light or easy read, so I wouldn't recommended it for a teens' core collection, but the illustrations might fascinate that audience.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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