Glimtar

Posted by on January 18th, 2011 at 8:22 AM

Titel: Glimtar
Translation: Glimpses
By: Rikke Bakman
Language: Swedish (Danish)
288 pages, color, hardcover
Publisher: Optimal Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-91-85951-23-9

Every now and then there appears a book that literally takes my breath away. This was the case with Glimtar (Glimpses), by Danish artist Rikke Bakman. As soon as you see it, it exudes an irresistible urge to pick it up, carry it home and read it in a secluded and preferred reading environment. The book is a small hardcover, square in format and almost cube-like with a spine width of more than 4 centimetres.

The beautifully designed book, with a photo of Bakman from the time of the story, on the cover.

Disclaimer: I can’t pretend this book just appeared out of nowhere, as Rikke started working on it when she was a student at the Comic Art School, of which I am one of the professors. That said, I had only read the first part, before I received the whole book a few days ago. Anyway, be warned!

A compelling sequence from the book, showing Bakman trying to convince the weather to turn back into sun and blue skies.

Glimtar is the story of one day in Bakman’s childhood, a day that she spent by the sea with her family. It is told chronologically from the young Bakman’s perspective, almost exclusively with pictures and speech balloons and very few explanations or comments in captions etc. Each page is filled with one full-page image, drawn in a naïve, child-like style and coloured with crayons, which also gives it a feel of being transmitted directly from the young self of Bakman.

The story is full of action, starting with the family’s bird escaping, passing the moment when Bakman falls out of her father’s car while he’s driving and all the way to a family intermezzo with a fistfight in the evening. Whether all of this actually happened on one single day, or if this is an amalgam of memories is not obvious (there is no preface, afterword etc. to “set things straight”) and that might not be very interesting. The effect, though, is that of James Joyce’s Ulysses, a kind of stream-of-consciousness feel, even though most of the book is told in a straight time line.

Bakman reads from the book.

Visually, the book makes me think of Swedish artist Joanna Rubin Dranger, whose book Fröken Märvärdig och karriären (published in English as Miss Remarcable & Her Career by Penguin) was printed in the same square format and also presented with one large image per page. The difference being that Bakman’s hand colouring makes for an even more immersive study of each page, which slows down the reading process.

The style makes for an emotional reading, putting you effectively in the perspective of the young protagonist. It is the focus of the storytelling, though, which really gives you an insight into the mind of the young version of Bakman (or the idea the grown-up version of Bakman has of her younger self, autobiography being a strange mix of facts and fiction), putting focus on the little details which makes up the world for child.

As you can tell, I am not only charmed by the design and packaging of this book, but also totally smitten with the content. Stating that this is the best graphic novel published in Swedish so far this year doesn’t say much as the year has just begun, but I dare say that Bakman’s book will have staying power and will make it into the lists for the best of 2011 no matter what happens.

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One Response to “Glimtar”

  1. […] det er svært at blive andet end rørt over slutresultatet.”; og endelig står der følgende hos The Comics Journal: “Every now and then there appears a book that literally takes my breath away. This was the case […]