A compelling graphic memoir about desire and illness, and the depth of love that often results.
Published in the artist’s native Switzerland in 2001 but not translated from the French until now, this prize-winning work details the romance of a Geneva couple, Fred and Cati. They meet at a party, where her attractiveness and abandon strike a spark in him. “What kind of girl is this who allows herself to drink Champagne in a swimming pool with a wet t-shirt, while managing to remain classy and in good taste?” he asks. In the years that follow, they run into each other occasionally, while their lives otherwise take different paths. The next time they truly connect is on the cusp of the millennium, at yet another party, where Cati looks “frail and pale. . .more beautiful than ever.” Not only does she have a failed marriage and a young son, but both she and her son have HIV. Much of the memoir concerns the complicated relationship that Fred, who hates hospitals, develops with Cati’s son; much of the rest concerns the equally complicated but rapturously sensual relationship he enjoys with Cati, whose illness arouses dread as well as desire within him. Even after a doctor assures him that he has as much chance of contracting the virus from her—particularly if they’re careful—as he has of being chased by a rhino through the streets of the city, he ultimately confronts even bigger fears that lurk inside himself. This material would be sufficiently riveting if it were all prose, but the drawings of Peeters are what elevate the book to another level, as he evocatively captures not only physical settings (Geneva, the hospital) but the attraction between Fred and Cati and the darkest musings of his psyche.
Better late than never—American graphic-narrative fans will embrace a memoir that ranks with the best.