cover image Portrait of a Drunk

Portrait of a Drunk

Olivier Schrauwen, Jerome Mulot, and Florent Ruppert, trans. from the French by

Schrauwen (Parallel Lives), along with Ruppert and Mulot (The Perineum Technique), spins a good old-fashioned 18th-century pirate yarn filled with depravity, random violence, cruelty, and laughs. Repellent ship’s carpenter Guy alternates between drunkenly accosting people in bars, dodging responsibilities aboard the ship, and occasionally murdering people for money. Guy grudgingly accepts an apprentice named Clement and proceeds to abuse and demean him through both song (“Whose peepee is bent? Clement!”) and actions, as he leaves the boy to saw off a sailor’s leg with no help. Guy’s victims spy on him from purgatory, each one increasingly angry to see him get away with murder. Guy’s fever dreams and the spirits’ vengeance converge in a hilarious comeuppance, rendering him a drooling idiot. The varied visual approaches, from scratchy line work to sumptuous color to swirling blue and black lines surrounding souls in limbo, work to break up the repetitive quality of the slapstick violence and give heft to the book’s self-aware moral allegory. The story’s cheerfully nihilistic approach may not be for all tastes, but it serves up a visceral satire for those that can stomach it. (Apr.)