What injuries did Hitler suffer in World War I.
It is no surprise that Jacques Tardi ended up drawing again in the trench warfare. It is the life theme of the now seventy-one year old French, and his volumes on the subject, which have been published since 1981, have made epochs. No other comic artist portrays the miserable reality of slaughter on the western front so uncompromisingly, none has the same psychological depth to offer traumatized characters, and none creates a comparable surrealist intensity with the highest historical detail. All of this is also the case with Tardi's latest work on the First World War, “Le Dernier assaut” (The Last Onslaught), which has just been published in French by Casterman and will be published in German translation by Edition Moderne at the beginning of January. You can get an idea of it here: https://flipbook.cantook.net/?d=%2F%2Fwww.edenlivres.fr%2Fflipbook%2Fpublications%2F233159.js&oid=936&c=&m=&l=&r=&f=pdf .
And yet this album is different from the previous ones. In addition to ninety pages of comic book stories, it also contains a CD with songs that Tardi's wife Dominique Grange recorded together with the muzette band Accordzéâm. Almost ten years ago the couple had two other publications together, but in the case of “Des Lendemains qui saignent”, also dedicated to World War I, Tardi only illustrated an extensive book to accompany Grange's CD, and for “N'Effacez pas nos traces! “, A song cycle about the revolutionary efforts of 1968, he drew comic strip-like short stories. In each case, Grange's songs were the core of the project. In the case of “Le Dernier assaut”, on the other hand, the classic comic format already shows what is in the focus here.
The band started out in joint appearances by Tardi, Grange and Accordzéâm. For a concert program with his wife's own songs and various settings of contemporary texts against the war, the draftsman produced a number of images that were then projected. He also sat on the stage himself and kept reading short narrative passages, some of which can now also be found as recordings on the new CD (which will also be included with the German edition). Whether Grange developed the basic ideas for the new comic while writing her texts or Tardi himself, one can only guess - probably Tardi. In any case, one can see from the attached photos of the volume that individual images of the comic were already part of the concert program of the last few years.
This time, Tardi has broken away from the strict page architecture scheme that had shaped his last World War I publication, “Putain de guerre”. “Le Dernier assaut” constantly changes image formats and dramaturgy; Unlike its predecessor, he does not want to provide a chronological documentation of the entire war, but primarily tells an episode from the spring of 1917. The French medical soldier Augustin loses his comrade Sauvageon in action to German grenade fire and then suffocates one of the two seriously injured people who had just been transported. because he fears that its screams will tell the enemy that there is still life in the trench. The dichotomy of survival at the front has always been central to Tardi's world war stories, but he has never described such an act before.
She is presented very coolly, as completely consistent for a man in a desperate situation, who is also nervously shattered by the constant mortal danger as a medic. From then on Augustine wandered the battlefield like a ghost, and we accompany him on this march and in his memories and reflections. Because Augustine is the most important protagonist of this comic, but what Tardi tells here again is the whole war.
Before we even see the duo Augustin and Sauvageon with their stretcher between the lines for the first time, it takes four pages in which a single French soldier dies cruelly. We'll never find out his name, but we already have the narrative voice in our ears, which denies the majority of the text: not in strictly rectangular boxes as is usual in comics, but in normal speech bubbles, which only differ from the characters' dialogues by this that they cannot be assigned to individual protagonists by means of a valve. What Tardi draws here is like a loudspeaker voice lying over the action, uninvolved but unmistakable and precisely for that reason particularly cruel in its factual description.
Augustine was seen doing his deed, and the memory of it is the recurring leitmotif of history. It remains to be seen whether the observer, another French soldier, died of his own injuries or Augustine killed him too. But this observer, as the (white-skinned) commander of a unit of African colonial soldiers, gives rise to the first digression from the main story: Tardi tells of the role of these combatants who fight for a "motherland" far away from their homeland, which they never use or their victims will thank you.
He will later branch off other branches: a homage to the “Bantams”, a British regiment with soldiers who were not of the required height but were sent to the front anyway. Or the story of a German sergeant named Ernst (Tardi conveniently chose the name of a World War II soldier best known in France through Ernst Jünger), who draws his bravery out of nationalistic conviction, but then dies in combat, which is an occasion to tell his imaginary biography which, if he had survived, would have led him into the Freikorps and finally into the SA. That doesn't sound very spectacular as a narrative idea, but Tardi turns it into a brilliant turn when he returns to Augustin, who found a rifle while wandering among the masses of corpses at the front and suddenly discovers a peeing German soldier who has his back to him. After a long self-examination he decides not to shoot him, but then the narrator starts and remarks succinctly that the lucky guy was a reporter named Adolf Hitler.
Again and again the slaughter is made explicit, and the classically terrible Tardi motifs of the corpses in the trees, the exploding bodies, the shot heads achieve a new drastic effect here without becoming obscene. Once the text of the comic falls silent during one of the everyday assaults - six pages of silent nightmare, because Tardi has never made noises the subject of his World War comics. In the end, Augustine himself lies seriously injured in the hospital, and there his deed caught up with him from the start - with the same cruel consequences that shaped this war.
The volume is dedicated to the animals that died for France - an irritating cynicism in the great philanthropist Tardi, but a sign of how desperate this latest excursion into 1917 made him feel. In the songs on Dominique Granges CD - the texts of which are all printed in the appendix, including Brecht's “Legend of the Dead Soldier” and other non-French texts about the experiences at the front in England and Italy - it is then again only the soldiers' suffering , which is about, including in a chanson with the same name as the comic, also specifically its story, whereby the focus is shifted from Augustin to another medic, "Branco" Broutille, who is an important but plays a small supporting role.
I would not have expected that Jacques Tardi would manage to shake it again with a comic about the First World War, but at the same time inspire it so much. One of the reasons why he can't get rid of the subject is probably because there are still new ways of telling the unimaginable.Keywords: Accorzéâm, Adolf Hitler, Bertolt Brecht, Casterman, Comics, Dominique Grange, Ernst Jünger, First World War, Trench Warfare, Le Dernier Assaut, Tardi
Why Hitler survived the First World WarBy Andreas Platthaus
Jacques Tardi is the most important living French comic artist and his life theme was the First World War. When he comes back to it again, one can expect something spectacularly terrible.
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