Chagall in Russia: a violent, surreal tale by Joann Sfar

Here we go again: another graphic novel, the second by BAO Publishing in few time (the other one I talked about is “Vincent” by Barbara Stok). And I literally loved this one too.

Marc Chagall, the famous artist, before being naturalized french had name Moishe Segal, and was born in Russia from a jewish family; it’s during this period that the adventures of this book are ambiented: a young Chagall in his Vitebsk, struggling with the problems of being an artist and in love, without being able to afford both at the same time.

chagall_in_russia1lAt his side a handful of grotesque characters whom will transform his story in the violent and surreal tale I talk about in the title; after all, as the inside of the book cover says:

chagall_in_russia2l

Marc Chagall (Vitebsk, 1887 – Saint Paul de Vence, 1985), russian painter naturalized french, is considered one of the most important figures of the twentieth-century’s art. This book is not about him.

A green man who thinks to be Jesus Christ, a Golem, a sad violinist and some bloodthirsty, lost soldiers will try to help Chagall to create a theatre, so he can finally have a normal job and marry his loved one. The soldiers become circus performers, the prostitutes angels and the goats will fly, but the young Marc will discover he only wants, after all, to draw.

chagall_in_russia3lPage after page, the young Chagall faces the eternal fight between the artist’s destiny and soul and the society in which his vision hardly can find a place. In this case, in a manner, will be him overturning the situation, finding a place inside his art for that society which was rejecting it.

I loved the figure of the woman loved by Chagall: a character far from the two-dimensional one you would generally expect as the female counterpart in the classic love story, although, in turn, gripped from the deepness of doubts and the unavoidability of feelings.

© Joann Sfar e Bao Publishing
© Joann Sfar e Bao Publishing

In the end, perhaps especially for this, the story is above the lines: the moral moves from the artist whom, as in the typical endings, chooses his art, to giving prominence to the unusual and less honored choice of those characters which prefer instead a “normal” life.

The initial promise, so, is maintained: this book is not, in the end, about Chagall.

Chagall in Russia” is the first work by Joann Sfar I read; useless to say I can’t wait to have some others 🙂

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