The cartoonist Rénald “Luz” Luzier, a Charlie Hebdo staffer, was born on January 7– the moment for eating a French cake called the ‘galette des rois’. This year, Luz spent the evening before it with his analyst. Thinking about his birthday, he told her, made him a little bit blue. Year after year, the day unrolled in a pattern. It started with parental phone calls and finished with a “surprise” dinner.
In between would come the year’s first meeting at Charlie Hebdo. To that, being a birthday boy, he had to bring a galette. In 23 years, he grumbled, nothing ever changed. His “special day” was one of hopeless predictability.
In his new book Catharsis (Futuropolis), Luz recalls this chat. But the memory comes after 114 pages of blood, phantoms, police, guns, media and hallucinations. Frenetic sex alternates with bewilderment and sudden rages flame up before they shrink back into shudders. All this tumult is pictured in different styles, sometimes with anarchic scratches and other times in orderly sequences.
The book is, of course, about how everything changed on Luzier’s birthday. But his confessional volume should have a wider interest. That’s because its subtext is the artist’s secret fear of an unforeseen loss of inspiration.
Luz describes it in a little preface. “One day, drawing left me. The same day as a bunch of good friends. The only difference was that the drawing returned, little by little. Both darker and more light-hearted. With this returning ghost, I talked, cried, laughed and screamed… This book is not a testament, even less is it a comic. It’s the reunion of two friends who almost never met again.”