In 2016, French cartoonist Mathieu Bablet created this sci-fi comic book full of light and contrasts, whose minimalist dialogue invites existentialist reflection on a post-apocalyptic world subjected to a techno-dictatorship oriented towards consumerism. Keep learning with Trad&Go, your translation agency.
Today, we are presenting a visual novel of high aesthetic and philosophical value, not only due to what it depicts – a deteriorating world – but also due to how it depicts it – beautiful contrasts between oppressive interiors and exteriors in spaces of infinite nature – and for the timely sparingness of its dialogues. This is precisely what makes the translation of his texts even more difficult: a schematic verbal minimalism subordinated to the primacy of a stylised and profuse image with discreet nods to artistic dystopias such as Blade Runner (R. Scott, 1984) or Brave New World (A. Huxley, 1932).
Shangri-La is the B-side of a perfect society, the reverse of the Shangri-La/earthly paradise of James Hilton’s famous sci-fi novel. It tells the futuristic story of human society confined to a gigantic spaceship orbiting a planet Earth that has been destroyed by mankind and is unfit for life. Instead of an elegiac tale of the idealised beginnings of human life, this is a twilight story of a humanity that has broken everything, lost everything, and language is no longer a bridge-builder. This claustrophobic setting is experiencing an epochal end, threatened by riots, genetic experiments on people and social disintegration.
If it were not for the extraordinary beauty of his compositions, it would be just another dystopia that warns of the abyss to which humanity is approaching while we turn a blind eye. Between chromatic lavishness and fractalism, the reader slips naturally into a sense of inner estrangement, of being outside their natural environment. As a result, the author succeeds in conveying an initially fatalistic and paralysing vision of the future of humanity, with a paradoxically revulsive and moving beauty, supported by the sensitivity and humanity of some of his characters. This vision is, at the very least, an aesthetic and ethical proposal to bid farewell to life. However, it also serves to awaken humanity from this nightmare and save it from its own doom. The success of this work was immediate at the Angoulême Competition. It has already been translated into 9 languages.
“Who reads ten centuries of history and doesn’t close it when they see the same things with a different date?”
Read books: use the master key that opens every door
For as long as the world has existed and people have inhabited and travelled it, basically the same things have always happened, one generation after another. Since ancient times, books have been telling stories with their unhurried voice. Literature is the sharp and infallible microscope invented by human beings to look at themselves in the mirror of their conscience without being able to look away. The kaleidoscopic truth of literature hypnotises like an abyss and liberates like someone growing wings. Do you want to learn more? Read books. Do you hope to understand current affairs beyond their superficial disguise? Read books. Do you feel like a puppet in the gullible and indistinct daily crowd? Read book.