Alpha: Abidjan to Paris

Bessora and Barroux, trans. from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $24.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-942658-40-5
A migrant’s harrowing journey to follow his wife and son to Paris from Côte d’Ivoire unfolds in an illustrated narrative that reveals the difficult existences of African migrants. The reason for Alpha’s family’s flight isn’t clear; though he says of Côte d’Ivoire, “if you stay here, you’ll be dead,” he does not explain the danger more specifically. After being denied a French visa, Alpha travels illicitly across desert borders and then earns money for passage across the Mediterranean by working in camps and villages in Mali. Along the way, he collects a makeshift traveling family: a youth who dreams of playing professional soccer, a young sex worker, and a small boy who is on his own. Alpha strives to keep this group together all the way to the Moroccan coast, but the dangers along the way make separation inevitable. The impressionistic watercolor marker renderings of characters and settings convey mood, but the people and places are just as blurry and unsolid as Alpha’s dreamlike narrative. Solidity comes in the end in the form of a third-person epilogue, which abruptly concludes the story. Though the volume doesn’t give easy answers and would have benefitted from a bit more story detail, it nonetheless movingly depicts Alpha’s challenging passage. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
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