100 Days in Uranium City by Ariane Dénommé, translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinal [in Booklist]
Canadian artist Ariane Dénommé opens with, “Thanks Dad, for the stories about Uranium City,” a dedication suggesting some semblance of veracity about the many challenges endured by mining employees in a remote 1970s northern Canada town. The sense of entrapment over 100-day shifts in darkness and the grueling isolation barely alleviated by weekend alcoholic binges become even more oppressive knowing the stories are mostly true.
Daniel, younger than many of his co-workers, has a pregnant girlfriend at home and must contemplate an uncertain future. At camp, he’s surrounded by resignation, loneliness, even death – the depletion of the mineral-rich caves as much a metaphor for the life being regularly drained from the miners.
Dénommé’s black-and-white penciled panels aptly feel unfinished, as if erasure might happen at any time, while the hand-lettered text – translated from the French by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinal – adds pressing urgency, as if the deliberation necessary to set type wasn’t an option. Amid this stifling environment of dispensable desperation, Dénommé’s father’s survival to tell these stories seems more exception than expectation.