cover image Parenthesis


Élodie Durand, trans. from the French by Edward Gauvin. Top Shelf, $19.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-60309-481-8

Illness is an abyss, a ravenous monster, and an encroaching tide in this harrowing memoir of life with a brain tumor. Durand, referred to as Judith, recalls herself as a young woman making her way through her early 20s. Judith is thrown off track by sudden bouts of memory loss, which cause her to forget entire days at a time, endure fits of shaking, and occasionally fly into screaming rages. With the help of a neurologist, she learns she is having epileptic seizures caused by a brain tumor. At times, the comic reads like a horror story: as Judith’s body is drilled into, irradiated, and stuffed with fatigue-inducing drugs, she forgets basic math, sentences she just said, and even her own name. Durand’s smoky pencil illustrations are terrifyingly good at evoking the interior experiences of this process, especially when she uses surreal, body-centric imagery. Minuscule doctors walk across Judith’s skull as they discuss the position of her tumor, Judith is literally swallowed by her illness (depicted in silhouette as an enormous, leering goblin), and avalanches of eyeballs come crashing down upon her much-abused skull. Durand’s visceral visuals, combined with an unblinking examination of the depths of medical despair—and, in time, recovery—make this haunting work unforgettable. (Jan.)