Epileptic (graphic novel)

Epileptic is the English title of L'ascension du haut mal (meaning The Rise of the High Evil), an autobiographical graphic novel by David Beauchard (more commonly known as David B.), originally published in French by L'Association in six volumes from 1996 to 2003. The first half of the series was published in English by Fantagraphics in one volume in 2002 (ISBN 2-84414-085-8); a complete edition was released by Pantheon in 2005.

The book tells the story of the artist's early childhood and adolescence, focusing on his relationship with his brother and sister. His brother develops severe and intractable epilepsy, causing the family to seek a variety of solutions from alternative medicine, most dramatically by moving to a commune based on macrobiotic principles. As the epileptic brother loses control of his own life, the artist develops solitary obsessions with cartoons, mythology and war. The book's graphic style becomes increasingly elaborate as the children's fantasy life takes over, with their dreams and fears (including epilepsy itself) appearing as living creatures. In brief interludes, the children appear as adults when the artist begins the process of writing the story.

The French title proved difficult to translate, as it contains several meanings: haut mal is an archaic term for epilepsy meaning literally "high evil" or "great sickness" (formerly used as a medical term in English, now replaced by grand mal), and ascension can mean either rise or climbing, as seen in a recurring image of the family climbing a steep slope into unknown terrain.

The English translation of the book received very good reviews from critics. The review aggregator Metacritic reported the book had an average score of 92 out of 100, based on 15 reviews. Publishers Weekly has called it "one of the greatest graphic novels ever published."


External links

An article (in French) by Renaud Pasquier "David B., le sommeil de la raison" in the journal Labyrinthe #25 "La bande dessinée : ce qu'elle dit, ce qu'elle montre", 2006.

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