Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review - Sempé

Here's a review for Foghorn I wrote back in 2006.
Scroll to the end for the chance to WIN the book! Whoo Whoo!!


You may be familiar with the work of Jean-Jacques Sempé, famed for his Paris Match and New Yorker covers. If however you are, like me, not a regular reader of those fine publications, Sempé would perhaps have remained an undiscovered gem.

To help us catch up with what the rest of the world has long enjoyed, Phaidon Press recently published a bundle of Sempé goodness in English for the first time, including the graphic novel Monsieur Lambert, four cartoon collections entitled Nothing Is Simple, Sunny Spells, Everything Is Complicated and Mixed Messages. A Sempé Journal, and two postcard sets are also available for those who require everything Sempé.

Monsieur Lambert by Jean-Jacques Sempé

Having been unfamiliar with Sempé’s work, (cartooning philistine that I am), I wondered at first glance if this graphic novel would be to my taste, with it’s gentle, typically French feel. One or two pages in and my inital thoughts were soon swept aside as I was drawn into the world of a small Parisian bistro and it’s everyday inhabitants. Sempe’s loose, seemingly effortless drawing style is a visual treat. Despite drawing what is ostensibly the same scene again and again, Sempe captures the details and mannerisms of cafe life perfectly - the eye is constantly finding something new to enjoy in each illustration.

The story itself, (translated by the award winning Anthea Bell) concerns the whereabouts of one Monsieur Lambert, who’s lateness at the bistro leads to much speculation amongst the diners on life, love and women. Past romances are revealed, amorous advice is handed out and everyone has an opinion to share. One caption reads “We at the bistro realised Lambert was leading a rather exotic life, but we never referred to it, avoiding the subject with the delicacy of true friends” while the wonderfully drawn illo above it shows the entire bistro talking about nothing but Lambert! Ah, such is life ...
First published in 1965 and now finally available in English, Monsieur Lambert is a beautifully put together book, well worth visiting.

For a chance to WIN 'Monsieur Lambert', simply send an email to Competition closes in a week (March 7th), first one out of the hat wins the book. Mark your email 'Monsieur Lambert'

Remember, you've got to be in it to something or other...

1 comment:

Will Dawbarn said...

i love sempé -- didn't even know he'd done a graphic novel though!
definitely entering your competition!!