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Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On Angouleme Best Album Winner Pascal Brutal 3
posted February 4, 2010


By Bart Beaty

I am going to say this as plainly as I can: I have no idea why Riad Sattouf's Pascal Brutal 3: Plus fort que les plus forts (Fluide Glacial) won the prize for Best Album at Angouleme. I'm not going to say that this is the worst decision ever made by an awards jury or anything, but the decision is completely and absolutely mystifying to me. I was stunned when I read the news, and now, having read the book in question twice, I am completely at a loss. Clearly the jury sees things that I do not.

imagePascal Brutal is a humor strip serialized in the magazine Fluide Glacial. Set in the near future, it follows the adventures of the most virile man on the planet in an era of rampant economic neo-liberalism where certain parts of France have become autonomous regions. The work is filled with slang (one of Sattouf's great strengths as a writer) and extremely crude sexual humor. There is almost nothing subtle or sophisticated about the work. It is a graphically coarse one-note gag strip.

Clearly Pascal Brutal has its fans and defenders. I'm not one of them. I find the work callous and shallow. Many of the four-page gag strips here I had to read over several sittings because they bored me so much that I stopped reading them. This is a 48-page humor comic that took me literally hours to get through.

imageWhat is strange is that Sattouf has published work that is so much stronger than this. I reviewed La vie secrete des jeunes a while back and found much to recommend in it. He is a smart observer of the French marginal classes, and youth in particular, but the broad satire here does not play to his strengths. His recent film, Les Beaux Gosses, received largely strong reviews. He's poised to become a major figure in French culture generally, and it almost seems like the jury decided to get ahead of the curve by crowning him now and this was his only new work.

Sattouf is a cartoonist -- and now filmmaker -- worth knowing about. His more personal works for Breal Jeunesse: Manuel du puceau (2003) and Ma Circoncision (2004) marked him as a significant up and comer. No sex in New York (Dargaud, 2004) was also an interesting book. Pascal Brutal, though, is so bland that I can't recommend it to anyone. I have no idea why it was chosen for this honor over so many books that attempted to do so much more than this, and which achieved to such greater heights.


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