After his mother’s death, a middle-aged man finds some old photos of Venice among her belongings. Curious about her past, he travels to Venice where he strolls the plazas and lagoons, looking for traces of the time when his mother was young and his grandfather, a painter, had a studio there.
Day after day, he explores Venice, eating in restaurants, looking for names in old guestbooks, watching the Piazza San Marco become blurry with rain. Buildings of gray stone or pink brick; green parks; sunken piers barely protruding above the waters. Fountains; statues; fish markets. He wanders aimlessly, looking for his grandfather’s paintings, looking at the seagulls, thinking about his family back home.
Jiro Taniguchi (1947-2017) is the unrivaled master of settings; his photorealistic art is realer than reality, his masterful eye immerses the reader in his landscapes. This almost wordless travelogue is perhaps most similar to his out-of-print collection The Walking Man, a series of short stories about a man simply walking through different neighborhoods in Japan. Unlike The Walking Man, though, Venice is in full-color, 128 watercolor pages so beautiful Taniguchi can get away with a 10-page sequence of simply watching the sun set.
There’s virtually no plot here, only the barest ghost of one, but this poignant book beautifully captures the experience of a solitary traveler and the idea of continuity with the past. I’ve never thought of David Macaulay’s picture books of European cityscapes as comics, but if Taniguchi’s Venice is a comic, maybe they are too. An appendix lists all the specific sites that Taniguchi drew, so the lucky traveler can follow in his footsteps. Recommended.
publisher: Fanfare/Ponet Mon
story and art: Jiro Taniguchi
rating: Unrated/All Ages
Venice © Jiro Taniguchi / Louis Vuitton Malletier, 2014. © Ponent Mon, 2017 for the English Edition arranged through Bureau des Copyrights Francais.