When at the age of five he began to read comics to accompany Tintin’s adventures, Riad Sattouf had no idea that 40 years later he would be distinguished with one of the most important awards in the world of comics. In January 2023, without even waiting, he became the Grand Prize winner at the 50th edition of the Angoulême International Comics Festival (FIBD).
Looking at Riyadh’s squares and the world around them is very similar. For the author, reality is a raw material of excellence: “The lives of real people are normally more interesting than fiction. But [ao escrever] I change a lot of things: I exaggerate, I diminish, I try to make situations comedic. I change the names, the faces, I hide the real in my books. But the smell of reality is something I really like.”
Even if “without false modesty” say that winning was a “giant surprise”, the author in The Arab of the Future It is Esther’s Diaries is by no means a stranger to the event. Twice — in 2010, for the third volume of brutal pascaland in 2015, by the first volume of The Arab of the Future — won the Best Album Award at Angoulême. The Grand Prix, however, has another flavor. Mainly because the winners are appointed by other comic book authors with work published in France.
In the final vote, Sattouf was nominated with the North American Alison Bechdel and the French Catherine Meurisse. In 2016, he was also on the list of nominees for the festival’s Grand Prize. He withdrew after learning that there wasn’t a single woman in the running for the prize. The FIBD Grand Prix is a non-monetary career award given since 1974 to comic book authors from all over the world.
Drawing the world through the eyes of the little ones
Riad Sattouf was born in Paris, in 1978. After spending his childhood in Algeria, Libya and Syria, he returned to France at the age of 12. He studied Applied Arts in Nantes and Animation at the École des Gobelins in Paris.
He entered the universe of comics in 2000, when he began drawing a series written by Éric Corbeyran Petit Verglas. Later, series like brutal pascal and the autobiographical The Arab of the Future gave it greater visibility. From 2004 to 2014 he published the series The Secret Life of Young People in the satirical newspaper charlie hebdo. It came out just over two months before the attack on the newspaper that killed 17 people, 11 of whom were journalists.
In falsely innocent and childish contexts, the work of sattuf it overflows with current (and central) social themes such as homosexuality, religion and gender roles. Esther’s Diary, the story of a ten-year-old child who doesn’t like the “ordinary music” her brother listens to, who dreams of being famous, blonde and having an iPad that her parents don’t give her, serves as an example: “Young Esther is confronted, in the school yard, with the real world and its brutality. Adults often refuse to see this aspect of young people’s lives, their hardness. It is a blind spot that, despite everything, says a lot about future societies.”
In two of the most successful series he signed, The Arab of the Future It is Esther’s Diary, gives voice to two young protagonists, also from the real world. In the first case, himself. In the second, the daughter of a friend couple.
“By using young characters, I can explore complex themes from an honest and naive perspective. Showing the world through the eyes of a child is universal. Everyone, even the worst scoundrels, was once a child, ”she says.
And although they are narrated by children and popular with the youngest, the books by the Franco-Syrian author are not for children. “It’s one thing that annoys me in my books. I make them for adults, but over time young people started to get interested in them. You might think they’re children’s books, but they’re not!
In addition to the comics, Riad Sattouf has also set foot in the universe of cinema by making films such as Jacky in the Kingdom of Women It is Some Beautiful Boys (which won a César for Best First Film in 2010), as well as the series adapted from Esther’s Diary. Currently, without raising the veil too much, he confirms that he is “writing [mais] film”.
Having won the FIBD Grand Prix at the age of 44, Riad Sattouf is younger than the usual winners. With more than two decades of career, stopping is not even an option: “I don’t plan to retire at all. I’m a young author”, laughs.