Scherven, by Erik de Graaf

Second frame of third section of Scherven:

Chris: “It’s about time you had a wee chat with her.”

I picked this up on spec last year from one of the local comics shops. It’s a story of young Dutch people in the occupied Netherlands during the second world war; after it’s all over, the protagonist, Victor, meets up with his ex-girlfriend, Esther, and reminisces in a series of nested flashbacks about the good times, the bad times and the terrifying times with their friend Chris, who got killed by the Germans (this is not a spoiler, the first page shows his gravestone in detail). The plot is yer typical young-folk-under-occupation tale; the art consciously refers to Dutch propaganda posters of the period, and as is often the case with graphic stories sometimes catches feelings and events that mere prose cannot. It’s backed up by photographic and documentary evidence about what happened to the real people on whom the story is based, which I guess makes it more immediate, though personally I’m generally happy to accept that fiction can have truth without being tightly linked to actual historical events.

The title translates as “Splinters”, and a second and final part of the series has now been published with the title “Littekens” / “Scars”. To be honest I made yet another of my mistakes in buying it – I thought it was by a Flemish writer, and it wasn’t until I got to the bits about Queen Wilhelmina that I made sense of the various hints that it was not set in Belgium after all. Still, it was engaging enough that I will probably get the second half.

You can get it here in Dutch and here in French; not yet in English apparently.

This was my top unread graphic novel in a language other than English. Next on that pile is Junker: een Pruisische blues, by Simon Spruyt.