January 24, 2021

Rébecca Dautremer leaves her comfort zone with ‘Of mice and men’


The French illustrator Rébecca Dautremer has stepped out of her “comfort zone” of the workmanship that marked his adolescence, ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck, and that is why he proposes a 80 page illustrated adaptation with the aim that it is not a book that is read “in the blink of an eye.”

This is how Dautremer acknowledges it to Efe in an interview on the occasion of the arrival in Spain of this work by Edelvives, an illustrated version of this work in which the American Nobel Prize winner makes a X-ray of the California of the Great Depression through George Milton and Lennie Small, two wandering ranch workers.

A text published in 1937 that Dautremer decided to do “ambitiously”, confesses: “I wanted preserve the integrity of the text, but I wanted to make sure that the images will take on a higher dimension with respect to the text. And since I already had the text, this has allowed me to make an 80-page book. I didn’t want to do a project that was read in the blink of an eye. That it will be finished in 10 minutes and period “.

So in these pages the reader can “delight” at ease, because the ‘Of mice and men’ of the French (Gap, 1971) is a waste of details, of illustrations where there are no previous sketches, where art emanates at its own free will. “It was a job that I really wanted to do,” he explains, “get out of my comfort zone, because I think it is important to make an effort, not to do minor things. In fact, I don’t know how to do minor things, but rather I’m used to working with big projects that are above average. ”

And this book deserved no less, because it is “really” a writer who marked his adolescence and because he considers it “a true exponent of the American crisis, of that unique moment that the most powerful country in the world went through and that was immersed in a crisis that suffocated millions of people for years.”

But what has this version really meant for Dautremer? Well, something as decisive as the fact of “giving up” something that is the Bible for the vast majority of cartoonists: sketches.

“I have chosen to change, in most cases, the graphic register, to do things in a more spontaneous way, working on a looser drawing, I would even tell you that something a little less baroque, less sophisticated, something more appropriate for this story, for this environment, “she says. That is why she has been” forced “to run, and assume, the” risk of error, of committing mistakes”.

Through, also, the mix of graphic styles and techniques, in these pages the reader will face pages with comic strips that illustrate in a “very detailed way the game of different characters, as if they were presented to us on a theatrical curtain where they come to life, they gesticulate”.

These pages where, add, “there is no interpretation of the text“; although there are others in which through” touches of surrealism “yes that readers will be able to let their imaginations fly since Dautremer moves away” completely from the style of Steinbeck “.” Because he does not enter to judge the characters . There is no moral in his book. I have chosen to take sides, relying on the images in the different passages of history, “he clarifies.

A thoughtful mix of styles and techniques that turn this illustrated adaptation into a kind of tangle that results in “a kind of sketchbook, photo or scrapbook“.

After 16 months of work, in which not a single day of rest has been taken, Dautremer once again puts on the table this indispensable work of reading that these days becomes, if possible, more relevant because what Steinbeck wrote does 84-year-old now has, according to the author, “a certain similarity to the American news of the moment.”

“Now we see how, once again, the most powerful country on the planet is immersed in this crisis, in which the disadvantaged classes are on the streets, without work, without resources. It is true that the parallels with the crisis of 29 It’s obvious. I think the town, in 29, went through an extremely difficult situation and I hope that the United States does not repeat the same“, he concludes.

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