Nicolas – simplicity can be so beautiful
by Pascal Girard
Drawn & Quarterly
Such a short graphic novel, yet so beautifully made. It’s an incredibly simple thing in both narrative and artwork. Stunning, heartbreaking and oh so moving.
Nicolas is Pascal Gerard’s autobiographical tale about life following the death in childhood of his younger brother Nicolas. The entire book, just 64 spare and minimal pages is composed of a series of brief vignettes, snatches of moments from Gerard’s life, from child to adult that tell us, through very few lines and fewer words, so much about the ways that such a terrible tragedy resonates throughout everything he every does. Every moment, from a Christmas spent wondering why his parents spend half their time rejoicing in his excitement and half their time crying to his own irrational fear of considering even thinking about having children himself, refers in one way or another to the terrible loss that is all pervasive and off page.
(Right at the start of the book and revisited at the very end: the idyllic but shortlived fraternal relationship that underpins Girard’s emotional responses throughout his young life.)
But despite the tone and subject of the book being so terrible, this never sinks into maudlin self-pitying tone, the tragedy is referred to constantly, but always as the backdrop to Girard moving on with his own life. It’s wonderfully done and all the more moving for it.
And just as Girard’s writing is sparse and minimalist, his art is so simple and so clean, eschewing panels and detailed layouts for a couple of line drawings per page. Yet his art never fails to fully portray the exact meaning of the moment, never fails in it’s purpose. Simple, effective and incredibly memorable stuff.
(The aftermath of Nicolas’ death, so simply and straightforwardly expressed, when Girard’s life changed forever.)
Nicolas is a portrait of the process of mourning, a process that never stops, no matter how far away the tragedy may be in years. This small graphic novel is just perfection in it’s portrayal of the way that life continues no matter how deep the grief. It’s simplicity is it’s greatest strength, with Girard making every single page, every tiny moment incredibly important in the emotional journey we all embark upon through this perfectly realised, simply told and wonderfully emotionally affecting story. Tears may well flow.