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Posy Simmonds, lady of English comics, crowned grand prize in Angoulême

The French Catherine Meurisse, the British Posy Simmonds and the American Daniel Clowes: the poster of the finalists for the grand prize of the Angoulême festival had, this year, a very cosmopolitan air.

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Posy Simmonds, lady of English comics, crowned grand prize in Angoulême

The French Catherine Meurisse, the British Posy Simmonds and the American Daniel Clowes: the poster of the finalists for the grand prize of the Angoulême festival had, this year, a very cosmopolitan air. “So Chic! », “So British! », We are tempted to exclaim after the announcement on Wednesday evening by the president of the jury Riad Sattouf, of the winner, Posy Simmonds, undisputed queen of English comic strips with a furiously literary taste. We owe him the free and very contemporary graphic novel adaptation of Madame Bovary by Flaubert, Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. At 78 years old, she had never been a finalist for the prize, unlike Catherine Meurisse, 43, who left empty-handed for the fifth consecutive year. Would the value wait for the number of years?

It is in fact a fair return for this London graphomaniac, who has long remained in the shadow of the great men of comics. It has never been the style of the house to put itself forward. Too much work - a column for The Guardian, the centre-left English daily with which she has collaborated for half a century - and three very accomplished graphic novels. But also the sign of a natural discretion in this wise-looking woman who reserves all her mischief for a work that has been in development since the 1980s. Her notoriety really exploded when filmmakers, Stephen Frears then Anne Fontaine, decided to adapt his graphic novels for the big screen. We remember Tamara Drew with the delicious Gemma Aterton and Gemma Bovary, with the same actress this time opposite Fabrice Luchini. In France, Denoël helped bring Posy Simmonds to light, publishing Gemma Bovery in 2010. With this grand prize, the highest French distinction in the field of comics, the publisher is reaping the seeds of what he has patiently sown.

Also read: The comic book box: Cassandra Darke or the dark side of Posy Simmonds

Posy Simmonds was unable to collect her prize in Angoulême, prevented by a “small surgical procedure”, but she was in Paris last December to inaugurate the retrospective currently dedicated to her by the Public Information Library of the Center Pompidou. “I'm still doing what I loved to do when I was 9: creating comics,” she told us then, charmed by the reception given to her work. She was surprised to see youthful works framed again. On the screens, we discovered a young designer who had been exposed to Punch magazine from the age of 3, pushed by her parents, who ran a farm in Berkshire, to develop her taste for drawing. We met a young Englishwoman who had come to complete her education in France in the sixties and finally returned to England having adopted the mini-skirt and mastering the language of Molière.

It was in the press that Posy Simmonds cut his teeth at a time when newspapers still commissioned a lot of drawings. The Guardian offers her stability by integrating her into its women's pages, a particularly fruitful laboratory at the editorial level. The designer will create her style there, deviating the cursor to evoke her contemporaries. “I wasn't so interested in political drawings, I wanted to show people's lives. We were talking about divorce, salary or abortion and it turns out that I received a lot of mail from readers who recognized themselves in my cartoons,” she pointed out in December. A keen observer, she describes an English society that she knows well: that of intellectuals and future London bobos, artists and writers in search of recognition, often steeped in self-importance and willingly phallocrats towards women of whom she does not deprive herself either. no more pinning the cross-sections. His cold humor hits the mark. She also imposes her unique style as a designer, the very one that will make her graphic novels successful, born from a constraint, that of the format imposed by daily life which orders one hundred episodes from her for her rewriting of Flaubert's novel. We recognize her by her boards overflowing with text surrounding an extremely slick drawing, down to the details of a character's shoe or their way of drinking tea. “The way you grab a cup also says a lot about you,” points out this fine fly.

Besides this singular touch, the great merit of Posy Simmonds is to have brought to comics a whole section of readers who until then had no interest in them. In England, in 2004, she was the second author of graphic novels to join the Royal Society of Literature, the equivalent of our French Academy. In France, the talented Catherine Meurisse, whose work can be compared to certain aspects, particularly through the literary prism, was admitted to the Institute, to the Academy of Fine Arts in 2022! Like many of her sisters, she flourishes today in a universe that designers like Posy Simmonds have helped to open up and transform.

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