cover image Majnun and Layla: Songs from Beyond the Grave

Majnun and Layla: Songs from Beyond the Grave

Yann Damezin, trans. from the French by Aqsa Ijaz and Thomas Harrison. Humanoids, $29.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-64337-948-7

Through a vibrant visual tapestry, French cartoonist and Angouleme’s Prix Orange debut comics winner Damezin reimagines a centuries-old Persian love poem. Since childhood, Qays has adored Layla, a woman with a “face like the moon” and “teeth of sugar... tall as a cypress.” His love turns to obsession, however, and his endless songs exalting her praises soon earn him the nickname “Majnun,” or “the madman.” Layla’s father forbids her from being with him (“this fool who tosses to the wind the name of my child”) and forces her to marry another, causing Majnun to die of grief. In the graphic novel’s latter half, Damezin transforms the classic lovers-torn-asunder tale into something far more feminist, giving Layla agency as the men around her work to imprison her body and soul. After Majnun demands from his grave that she die so they can be together in eternity, Layla scolds his skeleton for selfishness and walks away into freedom. In a series of bold, elaborately blossoming panels, Layla acknowledges her power, speaking directly to her dead beloved: “You died as a drop. I will be the waves.” Combining elemental, natural, and human images amid a mosaic of bright colors, Damezin charts a new course for Layla that pushes the ancient poem into altogether modern territory. (Nov.)