Travel From Your Sofa With Craig Thompson’s ‘Carnet De Voyage’
When I embarked upon my quest to explore the world of graphic novels a few years ago, it wasn’t long before I encountered the wonderful talents of Craig Thompson. He is best known for ‘Blankets’ and ‘Habibi’,
both of which I found beautiful and moving.
So when I stumbled upon this little travel diary, I couldn’t resist it. In the disclaimer at the front, Thompson self-depricatingly describes it as ‘a self-indulgent side-project’ , a little taster before the next book, which turned out to be the magnificent ‘Habibi‘.
‘Carnet De Voyage’ is more than just a travel diary. It started as a collection of spontaneous sketches and observations on his three month adventure through France, Barcelona, the Alps and Morocco, where he was researching to create ‘Habibi‘. The journal is raw and honest and really captures the vulnerability and loneliness of travel and the way that,rather than providing an escape, it consolidates who you are and where you are from by presenting you with the unfamiliar at every turn.
Despite some dark and lonely times, most of the diary is brimming with Thompson’s vibrant illustrations capturing the euphoria of chance encounters and new experiences. The people he meets and stays with, along with the little details of homelife and meals shared, are vividly brought to life by his pen. His street scenes bustle with people, animals, market stalls, and evoke the sights, sounds and even the smells of the market place, and his city scenes ooze urban sophistication. He even manages to capture some of the majesty of the Alps, and the beauty of the varied landscape he travels through.
He also uses a lot of decorative patterning that is used to such dramatic effect in ‘Habibi‘.
Certainly compared to his other books, it is an incidental work, but one that captures something of the fragility of humanity with frankness and a great deal of charm.
(I am currently camping in a field in the rain. Unless I join the circus I’ll be back on the 9th August.)