There I found, to my delight, the full set of the French 'take' on the Wind in the Willows, neatly held together with a big rubber band, as it can be borrowed as one book. Excellent. It's out on Son 2's ticket, and I think he'll enjoy reading it now I've taken my photos!
To understand this French version, you need to know that the French take everything seriously.
You may not believe me - it's not the popular stereotype. But I think it's true. Sometimes it's annoying - we cycle every day in our family, but we are not considered proper cyclists because we only use our bikes to get places. REAL cyclists don 500€ worth of lycra on a Saturday morning before getting on to 1000€ worth of bicycle to cycle 50km for no particular reason. (Do you detect a note of bitterness? Sorry, so do I. Need to work on that.)But sometimes this taking everything seriously is a supurb trait. No art or craft is considered a 'poor relative' to other art-forms - cinema is as important as the stage, street dance is as important as the ballet, and comics ('bandes dessinées' or BDs) are taken seriously, as real art.
That's how the French-speaking world produced stories as good as Tintin and Asterix, I think - no one thought their creators should 'grow up' and produce 'real' books or pictures. So it's not terribly surprising that, as well as the more traditional translations, the French artist Michel Plessix has created a very charming bande dessinée of our favourite story. It was published between 1996 and 2009 by Delcourt.
To me, the sweet illustrations and careful use of the original text work very well. How does the opening page (above) strike you?
Many of the illustrations are incredibly beautiful, and draw you into the sense of nature that is so important in the original stories.
This page shows the influence of what we in the UK might call 'real art' on the art of the BD. There's a credit on the front page: 'Remerciments à Monet, Manet, Van Gogh et Klimt pour leur collaboration involontaire et bienveillant à la page 23'. Cheeky!
I'm really drawn to these nature illustrations, and I think Kenneth Grahame would have approved.
All in all, I think they combine what's best in the original stories with what's best about the art of the BD. But there are some wonderfully BD touches, as well, which you won't find in the originals:
'Tune in next week...' style questions at the end of each book.
Gratuitous bosoms (essential, although very toned down to match the subject-matter and readership).
Fantastic French onomatopoeia! (That's one of Toad's car crashes, of course.)
But all in all, a really successful French treatment of a much-loved English classic.
I'm very grateful to Mrs Tearful Strawberry for the opportunities to a) visit the library, which I don't do often enough and b) rediscover this sweet story in a new form. And I'm really looking forward to Friday, when I hope to have the time to visit all of you, and to join in myself, with your Wind in the Willows posts!
Floss, from Troc, Broc and Recup'