Thursday, July 06, 2023

An Enchantment by Christian Durieux

There is a long-running - it may have ended; I don't know - series of graphic novels about the Louvre museum, officially licensed by that museum. Each one is separate, a different idea from a different creator or team. It started in 2005 with Nicolas De Crecy's Glacial Period, and I've seen a few more, mostly years ago: The Museum Vaults, On the Odd Hours, The Sky Over the Louvre, (There's what may be a comprehensive list of the series on Goodreads; I note that half or more of them have never been translated into English.)

I have a weakness for bizarre publishing projects and quirky brand extensions, so I'm going to try to find all of the books in this series that have been published in English. I'll go in order if I can, so the next one up was An Enchantment from 2011, by creator Christian Durieux.

It takes place during some kind of celebration at the museum. We see uniformed staff bustle about, setting gala tables, and an old man in a suit quietly grab two bottles of wine and sneak away. We learn, before too long, that the celebration is for him: he's some sort of political leader, who has just retired.

We don't know his name. He does cast some scorn in the direction of a certain leader of Italy who I'm sure is meant to be Berlusconi, so my guess is that this is Jacques Chirac, or a transmuted fictional figure with some aspects in common with Chirac.

That doesn't really matter: like the other books in this series, An Enchantment is symbolic and allusive and backwards-looking, a meditation and a dialogue rather than a book driven by plot.

And the dialogue this unnamed man has is, of course, with an equally unnamed gorgeous young woman who he meets as he sneaks away from his own fete to explore the museum. They appreciate art, talk about their own lives to some degree, and engage in the typical French philosophizing about life.

Along the way, Durieux has the opportunity to drop in about two dozen major works that are in the actual Louvre, and the handy backmatter tells us in exactly which galleries they can be found, so we could retrace this journey if ever we find ourselves in Paris.

Durieux makes nice pictures and constructs strong pages, though I find his philosophizing somewhat less compelling. (I've seen a lot of philosophizing in my day, and this isn't terribly distinctive or unique - it's yet more gather ye rosebuds while ye may.) Within the context of the series, this is fairly straightforward and normal, though: quite French, as is to be expected.

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