22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Riad Sattouf

Portrait Riad Sattouf
© Hartwig Klappert

Riad Sattouf was born in 1978 in Paris of a Syrian father and a French mother. During a childhood and youth spent in Algeria, Libya, Syria, and France, he was an enthusiastic reader of comics. He trained as a pilot and also applied to the Gobelins school of visual communication to study animation.

In 2003, Sattouf’s first comic was published; »Manuel du puceau« (tr: Handbook for a virgin) very humorously describes adolescence as a time of inner conflict between a continued existence as a big kid and interest in the opposite sex, two things that are almost irreconcilable. His mixture of comic and illustrated story, »Ma Circoncision« (tr: My Circumcision), which was published a year later, was equally marked by autobiographical aspects. A discussion in the Germany daily »Tageszeitung« described the book, a depiction of the ritual from the point of view of a child, as a »story about fear,« as well as a »ferociously formulated criticism« of the widespread practice. The article went on to say that the humor in the work arose from the contrast between the child’s perspective and his brutal surroundings, marked by his father’s corporal punishment and his teacher’s canings. Sattouf’s interest in the troubles of youth and, in general, the process of growing up are also evident in his »La vie secrète des jeunes« (2007, tr: The Secret Life of Young People), a collection of comic strips that appeared in weekly over several years in the French satire magazine »Charlie Hebdo,« for which he drew from snippets of conversation and other scenes between young people overheard on the street, as well as in his first theatrical film, »Les beaux gosses« (2009, Eng: »The French Kissers«), which won the César for best directorial debut. His most recent film, »Jacky au royaume des filles« (2014, Eng: »Jacky in the Kingdom of Women«) is the story of a fictional totalitarian state where men and women live in permanent role reversal, and where the love of a young man for the daughter of the female despot triggers a series of humorous events. His most recent graphic novel to be published in German was volume one of »L’Arabe du futur« (2014, Eng: »The Arab of the Future,« 2015), which tells the story of his childhood in the Mideast and goes up to the year 1984. A review in the German newspaper »Die Welt« compares the book to other autobiographical graphic novels such as Marjane Satrapi’s »Persepolis« series (2000 – 2003, Eng: 2004 – 2005), except Sattouf’s is set not in Iran and Austria, but rather in Libya, Syria, and France. The paper went on to describe how Sattouf flavors his own unusual life story with precise observations about the Arab world, which he interprets as a family comedy.

Sattouf’s book won the 2014/2015 Grand Prix RTL for graphic novels, as well as the prize for best album from the Angoulême International Comics Festival.