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Magic (comic) realism

Magic (comic) realism
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First Published: Thu, Oct 27 2011. 09 29 PM IST

On the run: Daytripper is the equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle that readers can piece together in their heads.
On the run: Daytripper is the equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle that readers can piece together in their heads.
Updated: Thu, Oct 27 2011. 09 29 PM IST
32, 21, 28, 41, 11, 33, 38, 47, 76.
Brás de Oliva Domingos, an obituary writer, dies nine times, at different ages (mentioned above) in Daytripper, a book that’s a bit about life and a lot about death (but not in a morbid way), written and illustrated by Brazilian twins Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.
Between his deaths, he manages to live, love, realize his lifelong ambition of emulating his father Benedito, a famous writer, and becomes a good friend/husband/father. And as they steer Brás through the discontinuous linear function of a life they have scripted for him, Moon and Bá ask and answer—neither is done overtly; it’s that kind of book—the big questions about life, love, work, and, most importantly, death, that all of us ask ourselves.
On the run: Daytripper is the equivalent of a jigsaw puzzle that readers can piece together in their heads.
That should make Daytripper a very sad book and, in truth, parts of it are poignant. Yet, neither the tale nor the telling is maudlin. Despite the discontinuity introduced by the deaths, there is a certain element of continuity in the story; because it is a comic, you know at once that the woman Brás is married to is an older version of the same one he ran into at a bakery in an earlier life, shortly before a truck ran into him—terminating that particular segment.
This columnist has been reading comics a long time, and has read some really good ones, but Daytripper is unique. It is possibly the finest example of magic realism in this medium that I have seen. The prose is perfect—and of far better quality than you encounter in even literary fiction. The illustrations are understated but beautifully detailed, with a lot of attention paid to the facial expressions of the characters (again, this isn’t something you usually encounter in comics).
At its heart, though, Daytripper is simply that very rare thing—a perfectly told story. It doesn’t have a word or panel out of place and there’s a charming symmetry to the life-altering circumstance Brás encounters before most deaths. Moon and Bá have cleverly jumbled the chronological order of Brás’ nine deaths (so, his first chronological death, at 11, comes in chapter 5)—one of those little things that makes Daytripper the equivalent of a simple jigsaw puzzle that readers can piece together in their heads.
The twins are young, as is Craig Thompson, the author of Blankets, who has written the introduction to Daytripper (and whose Habibi made the journey to my house in the same packet as Daytripper), which makes me exceedingly happy because it means the graphic novel genre is thriving.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Oct 27 2011. 09 29 PM IST