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by David B.

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Hailed by The Comics Journal as one of Europe’s most important and innovative comics artists, David B. has created a masterpiece in Epileptic, his stunning and emotionally resonant autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Epileptic gathers together and makes available in English for the first time all six volumes of the internationally acclaimed


Hailed by The Comics Journal as one of Europe’s most important and innovative comics artists, David B. has created a masterpiece in Epileptic, his stunning and emotionally resonant autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Epileptic gathers together and makes available in English for the first time all six volumes of the internationally acclaimed graphic work.

David B. was born Pierre-François Beauchard in a small town near Orléans, France. He spent an idyllic early childhood playing with the neighborhood kids and, along with his older brother, Jean-Christophe, ganging up on his little sister, Florence. But their lives changed abruptly when Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age eleven. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse.

Angry at his brother for abandoning him and at all the quacks who offered them false hope, Pierre-François learned to cope by drawing fantastically elaborate battle scenes, creating images that provide a fascinating window into his interior life. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family, Epileptic is also a moving depiction of one family’s intricate history. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to the stories of Pierre-François’s grandparents and we relive his grandfathers’ experiences in both World Wars. We follow Pierre-François through his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, all the while charting his complicated relationship with his brother and Jean-Christophe”s losing battle with epilepsy. Illustrated with beautiful and striking black-and-white images, Epileptic is as astonishing, intimate, and heartbreaking as the best literary memoir.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Here's a fresh voice that delivers plenty of bang for the buck. Sean Rowe's debut doesn't take any time serving up the action -- a major explosion cripples Miami within the first ten pages. But this tantalizing brew of thrills and chills finds its real strength in the author's ability to keep the surprises coming at breakneck pace while never losing control of his taut tale. Rowe’s Fever is just that; a hallucinatory, high-temperature pot-boiler that will certainly make you sweat
Chris Lehmann
… one of the many achievements of Epileptic -- the energetic, melancholy and candid graphic novel from the French godfather of the genre, David B. -- is the construction of a sort of upside-down comics narrative: It draws its momentum from the loss of strength and mental clarity and, most of all, the failure of would-be magical powers to remedy a horrible, incurable psychic and physical affliction.
— The Washington Post
Rick Moody
Because it is unafraid to dwell in detail on cultural and intellectual lineage, Epileptic seems to be influenced as much by Gide, Foucault, Malraux and Barthes as by Spiegelman. It is less a graphic novel, that is, than a bildungsroman about the artist as reader of continental philosophy, wherein Jean-Christophe's epilepsy, and its attendant familial disorder, are the fulcrum that forces Pierre-Francois to become the author David B., spawning his magnificent pictures, drawings full of the iconographies of both atavism and surrealism.
— The New York Times
The New Yorker
The French cartoonist Pierre-François Beauchard (he changed his name to David B. as a teen-ager) had an unremarkable childhood in nineteen-sixties France, until his older brother, Jean-Christophe, began to have epileptic seizures. This graphic memoir depicts, with an admirable lack of sentimentality, how dealing with illness can become a power struggle as desperate and corrupting as that of war. The family’s youngest child, Florence, attempts suicide; Pierre-François fantasizes about killing his brother; and Jean-Christophe’s rages become increasingly unmanageable and violent. The Beauchards’ futile quest for a cure takes them from surgeons to macrobiotic diets to spiritual mediums. David B. draws these potential solutions as totemic symbols, and, in one haunting panel, his mother is surrounded by their jeering, insistent forms. “So long as my mother hasn’t tried every single one she’ll be tormented by guilt,” he writes.
Publishers Weekly
The first half of French cartoonist David B.'s astonishing L'Ascension du Haut Mal appeared in English a few years ago, but this is the first time the whole book has been translated, and it's one of the greatest graphic novels ever published. Epileptic is a memoir of B.'s evolution into an artist, how learning to re-envision and recreate the world with his eyes and hands became his escape route from the madness and disease that might have destroyed him. B.'s family becomes involved with the shady alternative medicine world in France circa 1970 in an attempt to help his epileptic, unstable older brother. What B. picks up from that culture, from the military history he obsesses over and from his brother's cruel delusions is the raw material of his art: his stylized bodies and objects, which look like woodcuts and urn drawings, and especially his constant conflation of physical reality and symbolic value. With B.'s parents consumed with finding a cure, and his brother's quality of life deteriorating, B.'s dreams of a normal childhood are constantly undermined by his brother's illness, to be replaced by a waking and dreaming life filled with demons.This struggle becomes Epileptic's narrative core. B.'s artwork is magnificent-gorgeously bold, impressionistic representations of the world not as it is but as he's taught himself to perceive it-especially in the heartbreaking dream sequences near the end of the book. B.'s illustrations constantly underscore his writing's wrenching psychological depth; readers can literally see how the chaos of his childhood shaped his vision and mind. (Jan. 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his deeply touching graphic autobiography, B. shares with the world his family's struggles in search of treatment for his brother's epilepsy, and also presents an extraordinary portrait of the making of an artist, with the whole presented in an amazingly vivid expressionistic style. (LJ 3/15/05) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fantastical, gloriously illustrated graphic memoir of the French cartoonist's life, overshadowed by an epileptic brother. Born Pierre-Francois Beauchard, David B., a founding member of the avant-garde cartoonist group L'Association, grew up in a small town near Orleans during the 1960s, the son of two open-minded educators. His older brother, Jean-Christophe, began having severe seizures at an early age, and the disease gradually consumed the family. B.'s parents eventually lost faith in traditional doctors, who treated their ailing son more like a test case than a human being, and moved on to alternative cures. Many of them worked at first but became progressively less effective; treatment for Jean-Christophe turned into a revolving door of one guru after another. The family shuttled up to Paris to see acupuncturists and spent time in a macrobiotic commune that quickly became ugly and fascistic. Meanwhile, David increasingly retreated into a rich interior private universe to escape the reality an incurable sickness. He spun his intricate fantasies of war, monsters and shadowy conspiracies into elaborate drawings, which flow through the pages of this magnificent volume. Fantastic beasts and dark winds lurk around the peripheries of the real events being depicted and often come leaping right through them. Lost in his tales of golems, birdmen and dancing skeletons, David shielded himself from his brother's desperate condition: "My armor is the night." This masterful work of graphic art also succeeds as a tender yet unabashedly realistic view of the disease that eventually claimed Jean-Christophe. The boy was undoubtedly a victim, but he didn't do the little that he could to help himself andcouldn't help but drag the rest of the family down with him. This context makes the rage that David and the rest of the family felt toward Jean-Christophe entirely understandable, though no less disturbing. An unromantic, heartrending tale, wrapped in a cloak of nightmares.
From the Publisher
"A painfully honest examination of the effects of debilitating epilepsy on one man and his family, told through a combination of straightforward text and expressionist imagery that ranges in its palette from centuries-old symbolism to the secret worlds of childhood. Even as he shows up the hollow promises of every school of esoteric and alternative medicine his family encounters in their quest for help, David B. works a real kind of deeply human magic on the page-- something forged from black ink and a soul's struggle--that marks Epileptic as one of the first truly great narrative artworks of the new millennium."--Jason Lutes, author of Jar of Fools and Berlin

"David B has created a wildly beautiful fantasia on human frailty, on the making of an artist and the unmaking of his own brother -- a memoir that is hopeful and bitterly poignant all at once." -- Paul Collins, author of Not Even Wrong: Adventures in Autism

"David B.'s sprawling tale of his family, overrun by his brother's illness and obsessed with curing it, is a masterful depiction of people searching for answers when there may be none. David B. is clearly one of the best storytellers in the medium of comics."--Joe Sacco, author of The Fixer, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde

"In Epileptic, the distortions of family life caused by his brother's illness are the cracked lens through which David B. explores on his own family's history and, by extension, the conflicts of 20th century France and even, to an extent, the world. The thing that makes this memoir unlike any ever seen before is the wonderful, inky, intricate artwork, and the way that allows us to enter into the story via the rich and angry fantasy life of a growing boy."--Jessica Abel, author of La Perdida, Mirror, Window and Soundtrack

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.74(w) x 9.05(h) x 1.32(d)
Age Range:
17 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt


By David B.

Random House

David B.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0375423184

Chapter One

Chapter 1

1994. I'm in the bathroom, at my parents' house in Olivet. It's ... me ...

It takes a moment for me to recognize the guy who just walked in. It's my brother.

It's the first time I've seen him like this, without his public face on.

I didn't know you'd lost your front teeth.

I got these fake teeth...

get in y'r way...

Don't wanna...

There are scars all over his body. His eyebrows are criss-crossed by scabs.

He's enormously bloated from medication and lack of exercise.

The back of his head is bald, from all the times he's fallen.

Brush teeth ...

Go ahead, I'm done.

Brush... brush teeth...

All right, then... good night.

1964. I'm living in Orleans with my parents, my brother, and my sister. The Algerian War ended two years ago, but I'm not even aware of its occurrence yet. I do know that De Gaulle is the President of the Republic.

Florence age 4.

Pierre-Francois age 5. . Jean-Christophe age 7.

Every Sunday my dad takes us to mass. I'm bored stiff. I know every detail of the stained-glass windows.

When my parents aren't around I play Joan of Arc with my sister and my brother.

Fifty-centime coins have a hole in the middle, at school my pen has a nib, at home I read "Vaillant" and "Le Journalde Pif" and my name is Pierre-Francois.

Fafou ! You coming!?

He loses a few baby teeth in the process.

So I play with my brother instead.

Of course, they don't really under-stand our historical preoccupations.

I'm Joan of Arc !

At lunch, my father tells us stories from the Bible.

Those I do enjoy, especially when they involve fighting.

My mother, for her part, tells us about the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes.

That's even better because it's nothing but fighting.

At night, before we go to sleep, she reads us a passage from "Michel Strogoff" by Jules Verne.

The best thing about "Michel Strogoff" is the Tartars. They're always on horseback, they're bristling with weapons, and they kill everybody.

At night, the typhoons come for me. I fall asleep and in the mid-dle of the night, I'm carried off by whirlwinds.

And I find myself lost somewhere in my room, which has expanded during my sleep.

I walk for kilometers, feeling my way along a wall, without ever coming across anything familiar.

I'm assaulted by those nightly typhoons a number of times. And then it just stops.

Last night I was carried away by a typhoon.

I call out to Florence, who sleeps in the next room. She opens the door, I have a point of reference, and I find my way back to bed.

Me too !

Behind the house is the alleyway.

Several hundred yards worth of blacktop. Virtually never any cars. And the gang : our neighbor Pascal, and a pair of brothers, Richard and Vincent.

Hey ! There's a robot in the warehouse !

We enter. I don't like this one bit.

I know that's a lie. I've been to the warehouse.

The owner's son told me it was okay.

C'mon, let's go play in the warehouse.

We aren't supposed to!


Actually, it's no fun at all. We're on edge, uncomfortable. My brother seems to be look-ing out for something.

We start playing in a pile of sand in front of the warehouse.

The warehouse manager comes along.


Come with me, you !

HERE ! You clean that up !

I cower in a corner, wondering how I'll ever manage to get out without being seen.

Where'd he go ?

I fling myself into Chantal's arms, crying.

I see the manager coming back with Chantal, my parents' maid.

We go back to my parents'. Blood is pouring from my left hand.

The following day, I'm playing in our courtyard.

Fafou, don't go anywhere; someone's here to see you.

What happened to you ?

I b-broke... the... window...

I'm here to apologize to you for what happened yesterday.

He leaves immediately. My brother lured me into a trap and my parents let the monster into the house.

Suddenly he appears ! Looming over me ! It's him !

That's the worst part !


A little later, workers come and tear down the warehouse. Jean-Christophe is disconsolate. I don't give a shit.

Work progresses. We play on the motorcycle that belongs to Chantal's boyfriend.

Vrmmm vrmmm vrmmmm mm...

I wanna ride it too !

Florence, go get Dad ! Hurry up !

Hey Tito, you playing dead ?

He's heavy. It feels like I've been holding him up forever.

What's wrong with Tito ?

He had a spell...

Hnnngggg... hnnnnggg...

Actually, I know what has happened.

But that's bizarre ! I didn't think typhoons came around in the daytime !

He got carried away by a typhoon - I'm sure of it !

From now on I've gotta be really careful.

And thus begins the endless round of doctors, for my brother and my parents.

They go see our family doctor. He sends them to his teacher, who no longer practices.

His diagnosis reflects his hourly billing.

He sees them anyway. His diagnosis : epileptic seizures. He refers them to a Parisian neuropsychiatrist.

Ma'am, your son is a bad boy.

They come to the house and complain.

But we aren't bad boys. With the gang, we throw rocks at the bums at the end of the street.

They busted one of our wine bottles.

That isn't even true !

We also harass the lovebirds who make out in their cars.

With my brother, I put together my first book. It's called "The Martyrdom of Florence ."My sister is tortured on every page.

We draw a lot. Both of our parents teach art and we've got as much paper and as many crayons as we want.

In the alleyway, everything changes very fast. An apartment building and a parking lot are erected on the ruins of the warehouse. Part of the old structure is left standing.

My brother is the first and only one of us to speak to him.

Every day, one worker eats his lunch by himself, perched on a little wall in the parking lot.

Can I have a piece of your bread?

I ain't eating his bread. I don't wanna die.

That's RAGHEAD ! "Raggedy" is like all torn up.

Are you nuts, Jean-Christophe ? That bread is poisoned!

What's your name ?

He's a raggedy!


Is that beer ?

You want a piece of bread, Pierre-Francois ?

Don't eat it !

No, apple juice. I don't drink alcohol. Would you like some?

Watch it, Jean-Christophe.

"Raghead" - there's a word I never heard at home. My dad hadn't served in the Algerian War, but I'd heard about it.

My dad was there, he told me.

They kill people with their knives.

Algeria is a desert full of fortresses with legionnaires inside.

One day the Beduins got fed up and, mounted on horses and camels, they came and attacked the fortresses.

Little by little, they took over all the fortresses. The legionnaires fell back in Algiers.

The Beduins attacked Algiers and the legionnaires got on the boat and came back to France. The Algerian war was over...

At night we sneak into the now-vacated building that was left standing.

Check it out. A splash of blood !

He slit someone's throat here !

It's Mohamed!

You sure ?

Hey, Richard's got a flashlight !

Of course ! The guy goes in, he thinks it's a dead end, he turns around...

Look at that. There's two doors, one behind the other !

...and Mohamed is hidden behind the second door and he stabs the guy in the back!

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpted from Epileptic by David B. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David B. is a founding member of L’Association, a group of French cartoonists who banded together as publishers in 1990 and have revolutionized European comics with their groundbreaking approach to format, subject matter, and style. He has received many awards, including the French Alph’ Art award for comics excellence in 2000, and he was cited as European Cartoonist of the Year in 1998 by The Comics Journal. He lives in France.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Epileptic 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
kristin1129 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. The artwork was well done, and provided an interesting view into the author's life. The drawings and story line provide an interesting canvas for David B. to paint his family's story about coping with his brother's epilepsy. Though the cartoon drawings can sometimes dehumanize the characters, the style is nonetheless effective in portraying the the emotional and physical tolls the disease has on the family. An interesting read, even for those who are completely uninterested in either biographies or graphic novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago