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    Forget My Name Comic Autobiography: The Monsters of Memory

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    How do you escape the sadness of adulthood and the pain of your own destiny? By understanding your life story as literature and yourself as the hero of this adventure. At least that is the strategy of the Italian cartoonist Michele Rech, better known as Zerocalcare (“Kobane Calling”).

    He works in his new autobiographical comic Forget My Name (from the Italian by Daniel Koll, avant, 240 p., 25 €) the complicated history of his family and escapes again and again into fantastic worlds from TV series, anime and computer games.

    A man without a secret is a man without an identity.

    Zerocalcare

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    Like dark wraiths, unanswered questions and fears rise from Zerocalcare’s memory when his beloved grandmother dies and with it an important part of his childhood disappears. As shadowy monsters, they haunt him throughout the comic, Zerocalcare defends himself against them with his imagination and with the reconstruction of his family history, in which there are numerous secrets. “I’m always afraid of confusing reality with how my imagination has filled the holes and gaps for 30 years,” it says at the beginning.

    In the Face of Death: A Scene from Forget My Name.
    © avant

    Zerocalcare grows up in the Roman problem district of Rebibbia. At the age of two and a half he suddenly refuses to eat and speak, which is why his parents give him to his grandmother. The boy likes it better here, mainly because he is allowed to go to the zoo every Monday, where he names all the animals.

    Like chickens from Disney movies

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    Unrelenting and self-deprecating, Zerocalcare describes both his own quirks and weaknesses and those of his family: while he himself is developing into a neurotic nerd-punk, his grandmother is becoming more and more whimsical and suffers from dementia. After her death, her tragic life story is revealed bit by bit: pushed off by her parents to a boarding school, brought up strictly by Russian exile nobles in Nice, during the Second World War she went into hiding.

    As serious as the material is, Zerocalcare tells it with humor: in countless digressions, he imagines himself or his relatives in pop-cultural disguises, from the school psychologist who looks like King Leonidas from “300” to his mother and grandmother who like anthropomorphic chickens from Disney films are drawn, while depicting himself and many other characters as humans.

    The cover of Forget My Name.
    The cover of Forget My Name.
    © avant

    With borrowings from manga aesthetics, funny comics and a lot of cinematic exaggeration, a wild mixture is created whose stylistic leaps perfectly reflect the trials and tribulations Zerocalcare had to go through in its own history.

    As in a computer game, Zerocalcare tries to make the next level from boy to man, from child to adult, which does not happen without injuries. But despite his nostalgic clinging to childhood, in the end Zerocalcare is wiser than he seems to realize: “A man without a secret is a man without an identity” is the central sentence of “Forget My Name”. One of the weirdest, funniest and most touching comic autobiographies of recent years.

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    Source: Tagesspiegel

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