on March 3, 1999
Visually expressive, the illustrations that acompany this novel are put to great use where words would not do thr story justice. Nightmarish and surreal, the novel (seemingly) never fully explains itself. Some of the panels of artwork are so abstract, they could hang by themsleves in a New York Gallery.
Yes, you could call it a graphic novel, but that phrase, unfortunately, in the United states is still heavily associated with the comic book and thus a negative connotation. Novel would be much better since I feel that it competes quite nicely with some of the best of the written word.
Reccomended for mature readers only, not because of explicit content but because it is much too deep and abstract for the little ones to be able to graps it.
on January 13, 2004
Amazingly enough, this 1986 work was Lorenzo Mattotti's very first foray into the medium; it resulted in a masterpiece of exceptional richness. The English version seems hard to find, but all efforts are justified by the book's extreme quality. I personally own the 1997 French edition, whose cover is nothing short of extraordinary. 'Fires' is the densely symbolic tale of a group of officers venturing near an island deemed dangerous because of strange past events; one of these men is about to go through a life-changing experience. Everything about Lieutenant Absinthe, the main character, is unforgettable, from his angular visual style to his constantly evolving and unstable situation. Mattotti shows with high acuteness the emotion felt by someone standing on the brink of the unkown, the unspeakable. 'Fires' is clearly an initiatic story: on the first page, Absinthe says that both his body and soul are about to undergo a transformation, and the book's last page, furthering our knowledge of the character and adding yet another level to the story, gives us a few more clues towards the work's mystical, alchemical angle (among other things, Absinthe initially feels entrapped by the boat's steel). The use of fire is often allegorical, along with recurring death-resurrection themes. Mattotti's enigmatic, abstract storytelling asks a lot from the reader; this is one of those works that can't be truly described, but only experienced. Very highly recommended.