In her haunting graphic memoir Together Apart (Wij Tree Samen), Belgian artist Ephameron creates an emotional record of her father’s struggle with progressive aphasia and how it affects his environment.
My father is special
His language has disappeared
Maybe he is just adrift
In his own head
Lost sight of the road
And will return one day
International street artist Ephameron sporadically releases handmade zines, interspersed with the occasional original graphic novel (OGN). Her previous OGN was published in 2010 (read my interview on The Comics Journal) and was a children’s tale recounting relational drama. Her new book uses the same sparse vocabulary, coupled with poignant and abstracted collages and drawings to illustrate her father’s loss of his mental faculties.
Progressive aphasia is a cruel form of dementia that erodes the language centers of the brain. When Ephameron’s father was diagnosed with this condition over 10 years ago, she kept a diary of his writing and her own, which served as the basis for this touching graphic novel.
Telling the story from different points of view, Ephameron manages to evoke a maximum of emotional drama with a minimum of words and visuals. The main narrator describes her own experience with short, poetic sentences and terse observations, made all the more poignant by the lack of punctuation.
Excerpts from her father’s diary provide the reader with a glimpse of what’s going on in his head, and a third thread throughout the book consists of a different typeface that illustrates the gradual loss of language and meaning until only primitive sounds remain, like ‘Riera, riera, riera’.
The first part is is mainly from the POV of Ephameron, while the second part moves the focus onto her father. Both chapters excel in the small moments: a silent portrait, a focus on hands, a chair. The visuals, with their subdued colors, straddle the line between abstract and figurative, forcing the reader to stand still and take in the whole page as a moment in time, a small sliver of life degrading.
The result of Together Apart by Ephameron is a semi-linear story that you will need to reread to experience the full impact of both visuals and text, which work together seamlessly to illustrate the gravity and devastatingly slow decay of the mind of a father, turning it into a universal meditation on loss. Highly recommended.
Together Apart by Ephameron is published in Dutch by Oogachtend. It is a full-color hardcover counting 224 pages and retails for €22,80.
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