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Wednesday, February 01, 2023 

The cloud of controversy at this year's Angouleme

EuroNews gave a report on the Angouleme festival, where the following author won an award:
The International Comics Festival in Angouleme has awarded French author Riad Sattouf this year's ‘grand prix’, the most prestigious prize of Europe’s second largest festival dedicated to graphic novels.

Sattouf, whose mother is French and father Syrian, made a name for himself in the industry with The Arab of the Future, an autobiographical series that began in 2015. Readers get to experience Syria, Libya and France through the eyes of a child at first, then a teenager.

Many praised his work for making the two Arab countries known via another prism than the war, which was raging in the 2010’s.
One has to wonder though, whether it says anything honest about the Islamofascism that fueled the wars in countries like Syria and Libya. And if it doesn't, the award he got was probably deliberate, based on political bias.
Sattouf was acclaimed when awarded the prize, and reportedly declared ‘be passionate, read books from the elders, express yourself how you wish to, beware of every ideology, be outraged by all forms of intimidation and censorship, refuse them. Enjoy freedom of expression, which is unique in France, be free, write books, again and again!’

His passionate speech can, of course, refer to oppressive regimes. But many have also picked on his words for being a message of support to cancelled writer Bastien Vivès.
Could that be possible he was alluding to that pervert who's now mostly blacklisted at the festival? I have no idea myself, but what they tell about Sattouf is troubling too:
In his 2005 autobiographic graphic novel Back to School, Sattouf tells of a time when he visited a secondary school (for 11 to 14 year olds in France) as a 27 year old, in order to write a book.

He talks about the young Salome, described as an attractive teenager who only has eyes for him. On several occasions, he draws her thong coming out of her trousers, and recalls having seen her in her bra at least 50 times.

Riad Sattouf’s work is in no way comparable to the extremely graphic work of Vivès. However, some social media users have also said that Sattouf has published some problematic art in the part.
Now this does sound fishy, and while again, I don't approve of censorship, whatever Sattouf illustrated in that 2005 book sounds troubling, because it sounds like an adult man lusting after an underaged girl?!? If anything, it's a very embarrassing way of writing about experience visiting a school for younger students when he himself was an adult.

So the above is something that sure doesn't sound very appealing from a common sense perspective, and doesn't particularly reflect well on what some European illustrators have worked on, or whom they could be giving their backing to. And that's a terrible shame.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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