#RivetingReviews: West Camel reviews BIOGRAPHY OF A FLY by Jaap Robben

This small graphic short story was first conceived as a street art project, and was displayed on posters across the Netherlands and in Sheffield here in the UK. Robben and Faasen choose as their principal setting exactly the kind of place such posters might be seen – a semi-urban road; and as their primary subjects, animals their audience might glimpse on such a road – the eponymous fly and his friend, mentor and protector, the buzzard. 

It is a perfect marriage of art and words, with Faasen’s simple palette and combination of extreme close-ups and wide angles reflecting the specificity of the fly’s life, and the big, existential themes that Robben’s words convey. 

But it is the friendship between bird and fly that makes this short piece so winning and so full of heart. Starting out in the way that so many children’s picture books do, with a humorous take on the fly’s birth and his first impressions of the world, we soon see him seeking answers to questions he has about his existence, and, perhaps more importantly, about his nascent love life, from the wise buzzard. 

What the buzzard doesn’t impart to his friend is the tragedy of a fly’s short life. By the end of the tale we thank him for that, and wonder whether it would be better if, like the fly, we could live in blissful ignorance of our own fate, with a buzzard friend between whose claws we could shelter from the rain …

Reviewed by West Camel

BIOGRAPHY OF A FLY

by Jaap Robben 

With illustrations by Paul Faasen

Translated from Dutch by David Doherty

Published by World Editions (2021)

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West Camel is a writer, reviewer and editor. He edited Dalkey Archive’s Best European Fiction 2015, and is currently working for new press Orenda Books. His debut novel, Attend, was shortlisted for the Polari Prize. His new novel, Fall, is published this autumn.

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