Gallery: Bande-dessinée : Posy Simmonds |
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Bande-dessinée : Posy Simmonds

Born in Berkshire in deceptively gentle circumstances, Posy Simmonds studied at the Sorbonne, learned her trade at art school in London and went on to conquer Fleet Street as the graphic artist that people bought the paper for. The paper has mainly been the Guardian, which must be very glad to have her on board. Her earlier strips, which were periodically collected into several bestselling books, were concerned with a trend-following family called the Webers, in some respects the descendants of the late Mark Boxer’s equally desperate Stringalongs, but with a luxuriance of acutely observed social context that was all Posy’s own. Right from the start, her ability to eavesdrop on the fashionably concerned dialogue of the time established her as more powerfully armed than almost any contemporary British novelist. At Christmas, many of the people who bought the cardboard-covered collections of the strip were doing so in order to hear themselves.

One of the offshoots of the strip turned into a whole new tree from which the variously pretentious inhabitants of London’s literary world were strung up en masse, but always with a brilliantly individuated typology. As our extracts prove, not a verbal nuance escaped Posy’s ear, while the graphic depiction brought every character to embarrassing life. It was a natural step, but a bold one, to elevate the episodic stories into whole graphic novels. The two principal Posy bandes dessinées are Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe. In the first book, Gemma and her entourage are English people self-exiled to France. In the second book Tamara’s tribe are English people self-exiled in England. In both cases, the ambience is one of middle-class leisure with just enough resources to destroy itself through ungoverned emotion. The principal emotion is sexual desire, and nobody beats Posy at creating the kind of young women that supposedly civilized men go mad about. She is not salacious — people who say that about Posy have never seen anything by Manara — but sexy she is. In real life she is quite capable of calling her it-girl women “babes”, and she draws them that way. Her children’s books, on the other hand, can be safely put in the hands of an adult. The samples of her work given here should be enough to drive any viewer to get hold of the books, but let it be said, for further encouragement, that a thorough knowledge of Posy’s world is de rigueur for the British broadsheet audience. She’s in the language. As so often happens with the popular arts, the secret of success lies in the quality of invention lavished on the apparently trivial. You could call Posy Simmonds a genius, but watch out if she’s listening closely while you say so; and if she has a pencil in her hand, run.

Photo: © Jane Bown