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Gaby, a new play by Pagnol adapted into a comic strip

In the 1950s, Marcel Pagnol wrote a play that he ultimately gave up on producing.

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Gaby, a new play by Pagnol adapted into a comic strip

In the 1950s, Marcel Pagnol wrote a play that he ultimately gave up on producing. It is found in bookstores 70 years later, but adapted into a comic strip. Gaby, ou la belle et l'argent, to be published Thursday by Michel Lafon, only uses part of the text of this piece which has been lying dormant in boxes for a long time.

“I discovered it quite by chance while I was classifying my grandfather's archives,” Nicolas Pagnol, the grandson of the author, whose 50th anniversary of death is being commemorated on Thursday, explains to AFP. According to him, Gaby, the name of a young heiress who lives in a beautiful villa on the Côte d'Azur, dates from 1954. That is to say the year in which another heroine evolving in the same setting triumphed, the Cécile from the novel Bonjour sadness by Françoise Sagan. Gabrielle, whose capital was squandered by her father's poor investor, tries to save the day with a beautiful marriage.

“In discussing with Elsa Lafon (general director of Michel Lafon editions, Editor's note), we said to ourselves that we were going to make a graphic novel because the piece is very good, very funny, incisive, it has character. », adds Nicolas Pagnol. Since 2015, thirteen adaptations of works by the native of Aubagne (Bouches-du-Rhône), famous like Manon des sources or much less so like the play Jazz, have been available in the comics section. All coexist with the classic editions of these novels or plays. Not here. According to Nicolas Pagnol, “we felt that Marcel had not come back to put the finishing touches. The full text might not have done the piece justice. And that allowed us to tighten up the plot.”

Jérémy Coquin, doctor of literature who was interested in the theater of Marcel Pagnol, finds this choice logical. “There are three channels of dissemination of Pagnol's theater today: comics, cinema and the stage. In bookstores, at present, it is through comics that Pagnol is best known. His theater is still performed, as Frédéric Achard's Marius recently showed in Aubagne. But it is little read,” he adds.

The other pieces from the 1950s, Pagnol's last, have fallen into oblivion. And for good reason: Judas in 1955, an ambitious biblical fresco, then Fabien in 1956, a drama in the middle of the fairground, both made a splash. “It’s a moment when Pagnol realizes that cinema has become more complicated after the sale of his studios. He no longer has the independence he had before the war and making films costs him a lot of money. He therefore tried to return to the theater, without success, and turned to the novel. He is groping,” Marion Brun, another doctor of literature who devoted her thesis to the reception of Pagnol’s work, explains to AFP.

“Adapting a play into a comic book reinforces his image as an author who is highly appreciated by the general public but somewhat despised by the intelligentsia. It is what I called a popular classic, entered into school curricula, but little studied beyond middle school, with its easy feelings, its simple representations of realities,” she continues. After Gaby, Pagnol's Provençal souvenirs will be bestsellers. My Father's Glory in 1957, then My Mother's Castle, the following year, will ensure his posterity.

The script for the comic strip is by Véronique Grisseaux, who wrote a number of sketches for the television series A Guy/A Girl. The drawing is by Luc Brahy, who among other things signed the comic book adaptation of a novel by Franck Thilliez, Le Syndrome [E].

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