“Astonished” and “delighted”, the British Posy Simmonds, who won the prestigious Grand Prix d’Angoulême for comic strips in France at the age of 78, is enjoying her success and confides to AFP that she is working on a new graphic novel, where it will obviously be about women. Detained in the United Kingdom by a toothache, the designer was unable to go to the Angoumois city on Wednesday to collect her prize, whose jury highlighted the “original work” in the landscape of the graphic novel.
“I was surprised at first and then I said “wow”, I think in French you say “époustouflée” (...) and of course I was really delighted”, she says in receiving AFP in the studio where she works, a small room filled with books, pencils and drawings, in her apartment in central London.
She is the fifth woman to receive the award, awarded by a vote in which all comic book authors published at least once in French can express themselves. “In my ideal world, the sex or gender of someone who wins an award should not be remarkable... but we are not in a perfect world,” says the author, who became famous in France for Gemma Bovery, adapted from the novel Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. If comics have long been "a men's club", "in recent years, women have infiltrated it and I am delighted to be one of them", she adds.
This lover of France where she studied and who therefore speaks the language of Molière also considers it “quite extraordinary” to be the first British woman crowned in Angoulême. “It’s because in the United Kingdom, we are lagging behind France” in terms of comics, she believes, saying that she is enthusiastic, when she goes to France, to see in bookstores “adults who read comics and children at their feet who read them too”.
Across the Channel, Posy Simmonds is best known for her press cartoons in the daily newspaper The Guardian, with which she has collaborated since 1972. She has long mocked the British left-wing bourgeoisie, and its women in particular, with bitter irony.
His first graphic novel, Gemma Bovery, was commissioned by the newspaper which asked him for a series of 100 episodes. But as she had a lot to tell, Posy Simmonds decided to accompany her drawings with numerous long texts. This will become her trademark in the graphic novels that will follow like Tamara Drewe or Cassandra Darke. “You can say in three lines things that happened in the past (...) you don't need to draw it. It also allowed me to have different voices in the books, to see the story from different angles. And I think it added depth,” she explains. Another constant in his work: female characters with strong character, whether it be Gemma, of course, an Englishwoman who cheats on her husband in the Normandy countryside, or Cassandra, a cantankerous old Londoner who defends herself tooth and nail against adversity.
From the top of the twelfth floor of her London tower, far from the Berkshire countryside where she is from, Posy Simmonds is now working on a new book. There will still be a question of female emancipation. “I wanted to look at 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, before the pill and before the Beatles,” perhaps the last contemporary period to have become “a little bit old-fashioned.” The sketches she draws in red ink reveal cars from this era and women whose allure has not yet been liberated by the Swinging Sixties. Posy Simmonds has also put his archives in order. They will soon go to a museum in Oxford.