Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Yann & Édith's Les Hauts de Hurlevent - Volume 1 - A Review

We are very grateful to Éditions Delcourt for providing us with a copy of this comic.

Les Hauts de Hurlevent, d'Emily Brontë. Volume 1
Date de parution : 08/04/2009 |
ISBN : 978-2-7560-1380-0
Adaptation : YANN
Illustrations : ÉDITH
Colours : ÉDITH
Collection : EX-LIBRIS
Some weeks ago we reviewed the Graffex comic adaptations of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and already mentioned the great activity on the Brontë comic adaptations field(1). The present volume is a singular product among them. Firstly, because of its language and provenance: France; and secondly, and more importantly, because it belongs to a collection (Ex-Libris by Éditions Delcourt) which is not directly linked to a local curriculum or a particular syllabus but which aims to illustrate great works of French and universal literature. This gives much more freedom to both the adapter and the illustrator who are then able to deliver a more personal interpretation of the original novel.

Yann & Édith's Les Hauts de Hurlevent (Volume 1) covers the events of the novel by Emily Brontë until the return of Heathcliff from his three year disappearance(2). It is, then, quite centered around the infancy and teenage years of the characters, an aspect that is currently overlooked in many adaptations. Although this approach can be seen as a kind of wink to its potential target readers, the fact is that there is more than just that.

The adaptation by Yann (Le Pennetier) changes the perspective of the novel and eliminates Lockwood (3) giving the first voice narrative to Catherine who tells the story from an indeterminate future(4). This elimination of the web of narrators weaved by Emily Brontë simplifies the action and has the collateral effect of reducing the mythical elements of the novel in a down-to-earth reformulation similar in a way to the one produced by Peter Bowker in the recent PBS/ITV Wuthering Heights miniseries. The presence of Catherine's voice over doesn't imply any sweetening of the characters and situations filtered by remembrances. Catherine is presented as a spoiled brat prone to bad temper fits and Heathcliff as a scheming boy with no redeeming qualities besides his love for Catherine. Only the infant Hindley has some sympathetic traits (!) which he rapidly loses after his return to the house after Mr Earnshaw's death. The story advances linearly and renounces the supernatural (in all senses) elements in favour of a strong character delineation not frequent in this kind of adaptations. Yann is also able to introduce several Brontë references for the iniciado(5).

The illustrations by Édith (Grattery) are deeply personal. The style fluctuates between a naive, direct drawing technique, which is able to deliver fluidity and life to the characters, and the more elaborate work on colours. The palette is based on ocres and faded colours illuminated by an oblique light which fits perfectly with the general tone of the adaptation.

In sum: an original work which reformulates the original novel in a coherent (albeit simplified) approach where the text and the illustrations couple perfectly. At Brontëblog, we are certainly waiting for the second installment of this adaptation.

Notes

(1) To what was already summarised in the previous review we may add the upcoming Real Reads adaptations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights adapted by Gill Tavner and illustrated by Vanessa Lubach (scheduled for next July 2009)
(2) The second volume is scheduled for next November 2009.
(3) The Lockwood-phobia of some of the recent adaptations of Wuthering Heights is remarkable. For example, the recent TV miniseries broadcast early this year by PBS also obviated the narrator.
(4) Taking into account Catherine's fate in the novel this poses the question of how the second generation in the novel will fit into the narrative (if it is at all included in the second installment).
(5) Without being exhaustive: the Pillar Portrait appears hanging in Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre is given as a gift to Catherine and there is even a Reverend Brontë (not very similar to the real one though) who celebrates Catherine and Linton's wedding. A reverend, by the way, whose daughter, Emily, has died recently. Regrettably we have to point out a mistake: the inscription at the doorway of Wuthering Heights is given as "1771, Hareton Earnshaw" where it should read 1500 (pag 4).


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