Sunday, 8 December 2013

'Nocturnal conspiracies (Nineteen dreams, from December 1979 to September 1994)' by David B

I plan to post reviews on all the cartoon books I read, as I read quite a few, and this blog is not really getting used for much else.

David B has been recording his dreams for 35 years, and this book illustrates 19 of these dream-narratives. The subconscious is an important part of David B's life, and dreams have also made their way into his most famous book, 'Epileptic'.

This book is neither a story nor a conventional narrative, but a collection of dreams that he has recorded - some as a teenager and some later in life - and put into cartoon form. The artwork is influenced by the Surrealists - you can see Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, as well as Bosch. Giacometti's cat also makes an appearance. All the dreams are set at night - lit by moonlight - with strong shadows and dark colours.

The act of making a book like this is in itself daring, throwing himself open to all manner of dream diviners, psycho-analysts and Freudian interpretations. There is a refreshing honesty and innocence in putting something into the public arena that is intimately auto-biographical, but (I hope at any rate) not pre-meditated or manipulated in any way. Our dreams are our own private property, and in them we see our worst, or hidden, selves, that do not surface once we awaken. David B has pulled images and narratives from this murky world, that most of us do not even remember when we wake, into the light.

There are recurring motifs - armoured trains, soldiers, the Resistance, shooting, gangsters, terrorists, sex, water, death, strange animals and the gaps between railway sleepers, and on a lighter note, (there are not many) books - I love the idea that he goes to a shop and finds books by Roland Topor (a French surrealist illustrator and author) that he does not know about - it would be a dream of mine to discover new books by Hergé, or maybe an undiscovered Bob Dylan album, recorded in-between Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde.

It is not only impressive that David B managed to record all these dreams, but that he had so many vivid and strange ones -  the sign of a very creative mind, that keeps working when asleep, or maybe a sign of complexes, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Welcome to the human race!

The last cartoon is like a parable - a cowboy goes into a police station inside a hanger, full of cubicles - he tells each one "I would like to help you to do justice" - each time he is rebuffed: "too dated!", "too vulgar!", "too brutal!" - yet he does not get discouraged, he asks his question eternally.

David B, b 1959, has been working in comics for almost 30 years, and is an important artist of the French underground scene. He is not dissimilar to Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), or Seth (It's a good life if you don't weaken) in that he is limited in technical skill, yet makes the most of his limitations, to tell complex, original and engaging stories. The book was first published in France in 2005, and translated into English in 2008. It is printed in spot colours (blue, brown and black) on uncoated paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Written by Mike Stonelake, illustrator, cartoonist and designer. See

No comments:

Post a Comment