cover image The Strange

The Strange

Jérôme Ruillier, trans. from the French by Helge Dascher. Drawn & Quarterly, $21.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-77046-317-2

The protagonist in this gutting story of undocumented immigration is an anthropomorphic dog with an oversized body and a sad, round face, named “the Strange.” This is a universe inhabited by animals whose species are assigned based on character personality traits and authorial whim. The Strange’s attempt to find work and escape deportation from an unnamed European city is chronicled by a series of narrators, among them a taxi driver, a police officer, and several members of an aid network. The observer-driven form underscores the disenfranchising nature of life on society’s margins. Even the fish in the aquarium at the Strange’s apartment get more of a voice than he does. He is perceived as dangerous when in fact he is the one in peril from law enforcement and exploitative landlords and employers. Ruillier’s crosshatched pencil drawings and large blocks of single colors create a lonely world in which the backdrop is constantly changing. The narrative echoes the surrealism and disorientation of contemporary prose portrayals such as Moshin Hamid’s Exit West. Ruillier’s portrayal of a literal underdog and an increasingly ruthless state forces readers to acknowledge harsh treatment of immigrants. (June)