Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Mon Secret, by Niki de Saint Phalle
In this brief graphic memoir, late French artist Niki de Sainte Phalle details the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her father, a banker, and some of the consequences on her including some experiences of treatment.
The book appears to be hand-written and from time to time includes stylized, illustrated lettering at moments of great emotional strain. Snakes are a recurring motif and she often draws her S as a snake. She also places emphasis on the letter P, especially when spelling père, or father, and V, for viol, or rape.
The appeal of the book for me is both its look- de Saint Phalle's use of illustrated script and the casual feel of the handwritten pages- and the power of its deceptively simple text. The narrative starts off slowly; her family, based in New York City, rents a house in New England every summer. They go to a new place every year. It's beautiful there, seductive, but there's a menace just under the surface the year she is 11. The first sign is the snakes but I think we're meant to understand the snakes as a symbol of her father's sexuality.
It's a powerful book, raw and emotional. Mon Secret can be read in one sitting comfortably; it's only 30 or so pages long, and although the book is in a larger format the large scrawl of the writing means each page has little text. The vocabulary is also pretty basic and intermediate students of French could handle it with ease.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.