Graphic novels are a well-established aspect of French literature. 32 million were sold in 2012. A glance around any large French bookshop will find not just the famous French comic books – Largo Winch and Adèle Blanc-sec, Astérix and Tintin —but also works on political scandals, international politics and adaptations of novels. The University Library, however, does not have a consistent policy regarding acquisition of such material.
The Culturethèque (“the digital platform of the Institut français du Royaume-Uni”) offers a variety of ‘comic books’ available to read online to users in the UK. This type of material is not generally acquired by the UL. As with popular fiction, the UL has been unsure of which bandes dessinées to buy, and how to complement the University’s teaching and research needs.
The UL has recently purchased a number of graphic novels in French, among them :
- Quai d’Orsay : chroniques diplomatiques / Blain & Lanzac.
- Cahiers ukrainiens : mémoires du temps de l’URSS / un récit-témoignage d’Igort.
- Cahiers russes : la guerre oubliée du Caucase / un récit-témoignage d’Igort.
- Dol / Philippe Squarzoni.
- Enfant qui venait d’un livre : romanga / Didier Van Cauwelaert ; [tableaux, Soÿ]. Zédérem / Fabrice Nakira.
- Le bleu est une couleur chaude / Julie Maroh.
- Mauvais genre / Chloé Cruchaudet.
- Dieu en personne / Marc-Antoine Mathieu.
- Come Prima / Alfred.
With the vast number of graphic novels being published in France (300+ in the most recent Livres du mois, the monthly bibliography of France that forms a crucial part of the Library’s selection process), we struggle to identify those graphic novels which it is important to buy.
We recently bought Le bleu est une couleur chaude by Julie Maroh. The film based on this book won the Palme d’or at Cannes in 2013, so it was an easy decision to buy the book, especially so since the book also won several prizes including one at the Festival d’Angoulême 2011.
Considering literary prizes can be instructive, and can help to focus our collecting activity in order to determine what types of books we should be buying. Searching union catalogues such as COPAC (which searches the catalogues of around 90 major UK and Irish libraries) and WorldCat (which searches thousands of library catalogues around the world) can also help us see which types of libraries are buying these books.
Two such prizes are the Grand Prix de la Critique from the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée (ACBD), and the Prix du meilleur album awarded at the Festival international de la bande dessinée d’Angoulême, held every January. The aim of the ACBD is to soutenir et mettre en valeur, dans un esprit de découverte, un livre de bande dessinée, publié en langue française, à forte exigence narrative et graphique, marquant par sa puissance, son originalité, la nouveauté de son propos ou des moyens que l’auteur y déploie. Between November 2012 and October 2013, 3,919 titles published in France, Belgium and Switzerland were eligible for consideration by the ACBD.
The Livres de France (L850.b.568) of February 2014 has an article on the publishing industry for Bande dessinée and manga, which helps to illustrate the difficulty we have in selecting these books. For the first time since 1995, there has been a year-on-year reduction in the number of BD published—‘only’ 4,793 new titles in 2013! The list of top-sellers for 2013 starts with the newest Astérix, and continues through the newest volumes of the series Blake et Mortimer (some of which are available on the Culturetheque, and one of which is in the Waddleton collection in the UL), Le chat, Blacksad, XIII, One piece, Naruto and Les légendaires.
The UL will attempt henceforward to acquire the most notable prizewinners. In addition, one of our vendors has promised to alert us to key titles, a service they already offer to several academic libraries in the United States.
As always, we welcome the input of interested readers.