Sunday, 17 October 2010

One Question Interview #10: Rui Tenreiro

One of the best things about living outside of France's comic culture is that, even with the internet and our friends in the Franco-Belgian industry, comic shops on the other side of the channel still hold a lot of wonderful surprises for us. To add further international flair to this anecdote, it was in one of Paris' wonderful multitude of comic stores that we first encountered the breathtaking work of Mozambican creator Rui Tenreiro.

Instantly falling in love at first sight with the gorgeous La Pastèque edition of his graphic novel The Celebration, we immediately knew that it was a book we had to have. Luckily, our shallow judging of the book by its cover paid off, and we were rewarded with one of the most delightful books we've had the pleasure of reading this year. A story of adventure, creatures, dreams and reality, its appeal is such that it's already been published in four languages and a little bird tells us that negotiations are underway to release it in English. Seriously people, cross your fingers.

We've heard that your book The Celebration might finally get published in English next Spring. Congratulations! What was the original idea and inspiration behind writing it?

"Thanks! The publication of the book is currently being negotiated. I would very much like it to come out in English. The book is currently published in French, Spanish, Finnish and Norwegian.

The idea for this book was strange because there were elements which I first made up and joined, and later on discovered they really existed and made more sense than I had imagined. For example: the bird-demon character in the book. It happened that this demon existed in Shinto beliefs, and it’s called Tengu. But I didn’t know this when I wrote the story. To a certain extent, the story is a mystery even to me. But I think there’s also an implicit meaning in the choices one makes, so things don’t happen completely at random.

Part of the idea for the story came to me when I was at home listening to music. At about the same time, I had a dream of a celebration happening in a forest, where people celebrated fertility and burned trees which would grow new flowers the following year. There was some emphasis on repetition in the dream. Throughout the book, there’s an emphasis is on ritual and repetition.

The story should probably be just enjoyed rather than overly explained. But I can tell a little about it.

The book has a circular quality to it. The scenario isn’t quite in Japan, nor in any specific time/era, but it indicates more a sort of medieval place, lost somewhere in time and memory. The story follows two identical travelers who encounter a strange, dead creature while crossing a great forest. After spending the night camping in the woods, they wake up to a farmer, who deliberately directs them to the wrong path. They won’t know this ever, but the shape-shifting farmer is a Tengu. The demon needs to hatch an egg which is inside the village, and towards which the two main characters are being directed to. To achieve that, he takes over the body of one of them.

Further on, the two travelers encounter villagers from Paper City, which the demon-bird wants to reach. They sing in the forest and burn trees in a ritual to ‘renew’ them, so that the cycle of fertility can go on, and so that the crops can continue producing. The flowers from the trees flood the town linger over the town, which is believed to ‘fertilize’ it.The villagers invite the travelers to stay, which is what the demon wants. Once in the town, the demon will succeed in hatching the egg.

In the meantime, the strange creature simply vanishes when the men go back to look for it. All the elements in the story are interlinked and dependent on one another for balance, in a way. You can trace their origin and connection in a sort of internal loop-like plot, if you follow closely. The story contains one element which isn’t attached to any particular mystery inside the story — a French pilot. (guess who!)

Some time ago, after completing The Celebration, I watched Dreams by Akira Kurosawa (a film containing several short films which he’d dreamed). I was surprised to find several similarities to my own story in the last short film, entitled ‘Village of The Watermills’. I even knew what the characters would say before they did so, somehow. Being such a fan of some of his films, I like to imagine that Kurosawa and I were dreaming the same stories in different a different time and place."

As if we didn't already owe Rui huge gratitude for providing us with such a detailed perspective of the book, he's kindly allowed us to showcase an excerpt from it (see below). It's honestly an amazing book, that we can't wait to see in English. Until then, if you know Finnish, French, Portugese, Norwegian or Spanish, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy. Of course, we'll keep you posted when the book comes out, or you can check Tenreiro's blog obsessively like us for the latest updates. 


  1. I cannot WAIT to get a copy (hopefully, in English)! Thanks, ATF.

  2. I bought a copy of this at MoCCA the other year and it had a little folded up English translation in the front. (Wrote a bit about it here: ) Glad to hear a little more context.