Letter to Survivors by Gébé, translated by Edward Gauvin [in Booklist]
Once upon a time, they were “that happy family”: two parents, two children, one dog, living in “the house of [their] dreams.” And then they added a coastal apartment and a mountain escape – traversed via luxury car, then adventure mobile – and then more, and more. Until their world implodes, that is, and the foursome (minus the dog) are buried deep below with only an air vent connecting them to a mysterious voice above.
What they can’t see is an amorphously garbed postman in a gas mask, coveralls, and boots, who delivers letters he reads aloud through the air vent, revealing disjointed stories. Each is seemingly a clever parody of a distinct literary genre, including an allegory about love in a garden of smells, a bildungsroman following a teen through to old age, a murder mystery featuring a dead uncle, and a fairy tale delivered by a consummate showman. Who’s controlling the narrative is an eerie reveal.
Originally published in France in 1981, the late Gébé’s post-apocalyptic warning makes its English-language debut thanks to award-winning, superbly prodigious (300-plus translated graphic titles!) Edward Gauvin. His astute, context-rich introduction to the multi-faceted, Charlie Hebdo-famed Georges Blondeaux (“Gébé” is the French pronunciation of his initials) underscores – ironically, tragically, yet somehow comically – the timeless efficacy of this “slim, disillusioned volume” about the perils of blind capitalism and imminent self-destruction.
Published: 1981 (France), 2019 (United States)