The graphic novel has become widely accepted by now, but novels are not the only form that can be fruitfully assimilated into comics – Sebastion Lörscher proves with his “graphic journey” Making Friends in Bangalore that travel narratives may also benefit from this treatment.
As the subtitle of this volume indicates, Sebastian Lörscher took his sketchbook along with him to India and made good use of it during his stay, chronicling various encounters he had with people. The drawings are quite rough, using few but expressive strokes, and very, very colourful – I’m not sure what he used (being a complete ignoramus when it comes to drawings) but they looks like crayon drawings to me, and they certainly have something of the exuberance one tends to associate with that drawing utensil favoured by small children.
As is indicated by the book’s main title, this is mainly about the people of Bangalore – although there is an extended appendix where the author gives some general background information on the culture and economy of the Indian city, the by far largest part is given to conversations Lörscher had with a great variety of people of all genders, classes and even nationalities (in one chapter, for example, he meets three people from Iraq). Quite often it is literally the sketchbook by which an encounter is initiated; people notice it, remark on it, ask questions about it, and already a conversation gets going. The inhabitants of Bangalore come across as a very friendly lot here, and in keeping with the mostly bright and colourful style of the drawings the city appears as a place teeming with life. This does not mean that Lörscher ignores the poverty or the social injustice, the fact there is intolerance and class prejudice – but he shows again and again how people refuse to be dragged down by those but are determinedly set on enjoying life to the fullest, no matter what obstacles might get thrown in their way.
Sebastian Lörscher’s drawing style also gives a great immediacy to the encounters he narrates, and much more than photographs retains the individual, subjective gaze on events, thus making this a very personal book which by virtue of precisely that subjectivity brings life in and inhabitants of Bangalore much closer to the reader than any more “objective” medium like photographs or film could.
The result is a highly enjoyable book, in fact one of the must fun ones I have recently read, that also manages to be quite informative, and not just in the appendix, but also in and through the conversations he has with a wide range of individuals who are always more than happy to tell the author about their life, theirs joys and sufferings. Making Friends in Bangalore is a celebration of India and its people, and of the human spirit that finds joy even in adversity. It’s an entertaining and beautiful books and makes one hope that “graphic journeys” will become as popular and accepted as graphic novels are.
And since one really needs to see come pictures to appreciate this book, here is a link to the author’s web site with some sample pages.