Relationships, sex, women’s self-determination and disappointments – the French comic book author Aude Picault covers these topics in her graphic novel “Ideal Standard”.
Claire, in her mid-thirties, a nurse on a ward for premature infants, dreams of her ideal man, a fulfilled relationship, children – meanwhile, her love affairs never last beyond the first three months. Then she meets the cool banker Franck; the adventure becomes love and soon the couple move in together. Claire is on the verge of realizing her life’s dream. Floating on her rose-coloured cloud, she doesn’t notice how much Franck idealizes her.
French national Aude Picault (born 1979) made a name for herself about ten years ago with her subtle and conflicted portrayal of “Papa”. In the French daily newspaper Libération, her comic strip “L’air de rien” presents one of the smartest and most charming verdicts about her generation.
In “Ideal Standard” she illustrates how Claire, fed by advertising, social pressure, her own expectations, the effects of education and other things, loses out in the space between dream world and reality, in-between naive illusions and cruel awakenings, high standards and minor crises. She gets caught up in a net of minor delusions that at the latest unravel when she falls pregnant: she realizes that Franck and her relationship are anything but ideal.
“Ideal Standard” is a subtle genre portrayal of the life of a woman in her mid-thirties. Picault trusts her personal experience and her relationships; despite the latent feminist discourse she dispenses with any kind of programmatic statement, and with everything that is bigger or more abstract than life as well as exaggerations – except for skilfully applied stereotypes that have a hint of caricature about them. Her drawings are also minimalist and elegant and are reminiscent of Sempé thanks to their lightness, depth and resonance. Individual, carefully used colour accents underline moods or make dreams and ideas visible.
At the end of the book, at the house-warming party for her small attic apartment, Claire dreams of the happy and balanced man whom she soon hopes to meet. However, the reader suspects that the experience with Franck will not necessarily protect her from further disappointments – possibly not even the next man will be ideal, but only standard …
By Christian Gasser
Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright
Aude Picault, Ideal Standard (160 pages; German edition published by Reprodukt Verlag, French edition by Dargaud)
Aude Picault, L’air de rien (Dargaud, 72 pages)
This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe website on 8 March 2018.