This epic graphic memoir spans oceans and generations, with a narrative as engrossing as the artistry that illustrates it.
In his preface, renowned French graphic novelist Guibert (co-author: The Professor’s Daughter, 2007, etc.) explains the bond he shared with the much older Cope, who had served as an American soldier during World War II and left his native country to return to France in the aftermath. “He spoke well; I listened well,” writes Guibert. “Save two or three, his anecdotes were nothing spectacular. They evoked only very remotely what movies or books about the Second World War had taught me. Still, I found them captivating, because of the accents of truth they contained. I could literally see what he was describing.” Now the American reader can as well (the first volume of the collaboration was initially published in France in 2000, the year after Cope’s death). As the title suggests, this is one man’s war memories, filled not with tales of larger-than-life heroism but with the chance encounters, tragic absurdities and small kindnesses experienced by a sheltered young soldier of uncommon intelligence, as recollected by an older man who has come to take stock of his life and reconsider the values by which he has lived it. He comes to question himself, his country and humanity in general, while retaining a humanitarian warmth and a deep appreciation for the arts. The narrative voice is captivating, and the black-and-white illustrations are often stunning, whether capturing the grandeur of Big Sur and the giant redwoods of California or showing the destruction of European villages by soldiers who shared a common bond of humanity with the civilian “enemy.” The Veteran’s Day publication befits a volume that underscores the resonance and legacy of war.
Thankfully for readers, Guibert promises a prequel volume on Cope’s childhood in California, in testament to “the storyteller in him that I was drawn to—his personality, his style, his voice, and his astounding memory.”