Monday, November 28, 2016

City of Clowns

Written by Daniel Alarcón
Art by Sheila Alvarado

I picked up the graphic novel adaptation of Daniel Alarcón's short story, City of Clowns.

It is the story of a young man in Lima, Peru, named Oscar, but called Chino.  His father has recently died, which has made it impossible for Chino to hide from the fact that his father had another family.

Chino's mother has become close with her husband's mistress, and has even gone to live there, while Chino feels himself somewhat lost, and prone to wandering the streets of Lima.  He is supposed to be on an assignment, reporting on the ubiquitous clowns that fill the streets, but is largely unable to concentrate.  He ends up posing as a clown himself for a while, while also sharing with the reader his memories of his father and his childhood.

Chino, whose family had come to Lima from a poor mining town, had been given the opportunity to receive a quality education thanks to the kindness of his mother's employer, yet he never quite felt a part of his peer group.  Having to help his father renovate and maintain his peers' homes did not make it any easier (although his inevitable involvement in the robbery of their homes did help salve his wounded ego).

This is a hard story to describe without the benefit of Sheila Alvarado's expressive art.  She lays things out beautifully, and uses the images to enhance the story in a way that is uncommon in literary adaptations.

I'm a big fan of South American writers like Roberto Bolaño, and see some clear parallels between some of his writing, this graphic novel, and the brilliant Daytripper, one of my top five favourite comics, by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon.  Perhaps it's just because Chino ends up writing his father's obituary, but I thought of that book numerous times while reading this.

I highly recommend this comic.

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