The British monarchy does not have just one queen. If Camilla, the wife of Charles III, is the sovereign consort of the kingdom, Posy Simmonds unquestionably reigns over graphic novels across the Channel. For four decades, his press cartoons have lulled the readers of the Sunof Times and especially from Guardianwith whom she began a rich collaboration in 1972 and until 2008. It was in the columns of the latter, a center-left daily, that her two most great successes, Gemma Bovery And Tamara Drewebrought together as an album in 1999 and 2007 respectively. Jewels of irreverence, they were translated and published in France by Denoël.
Since 2002, Posy Simmonds has been an MBE – Member of the Order of the British Empire, the equivalent of a Knight of the Legion of Honour. A distinction which crowns one who nevertheless spent a large part of her career tiring out the bourgeoisie of her country.
Latest tribute to date: the Public Information Library (BPI), in Paris, is devoting a large retrospective to him until 1er April 2024. Called “Drawing Literature”, the exhibition invites you to discover the world of a great illustrator through more than a hundred drawings, sketches and notebooks, as well as extracts from the film adaptations taken from her works. For the author, “it’s extraordinary to be exhibited at the BPI, because it was there, in the bookstores of Beaubourg, in the 1960s, that[elle a] understood to what extent comics were important in France”.
When Her Majesty of Bubbles receives us, at the beginning of November, in her apartment in the center of the British capital, grayness and drizzle, as expected, are omnipresent in Foggy London. Over Earl Gray tea and ginger biscuits (clichés die hard), the conversation of Posy Simmonds, 78, becomes luminous, even dazzling at times. We could listen to him for hours recounting his life, in English as delicious as his French – “a poetic and dramatic language that I have always loved”, she said, apologizing for having forgotten the essential part. In reality, she moves from one to the other with disconcerting ease, speaking with humor about the readers of Guardian of the time as being “a little “left-wing Kashmir”, social-liberal and right-thinking”.
From her years spent as a press cartoonist, she has vivid and moving memories. “The fact of having been an independent contributor and not working at the newspaper allowed me to escape the intrigues of office life”, she confides. The press, which was still asking for it until recently, is paying it forward: in 2021, the Guardian entrusted him with the task of illustrating the “front page” of the 200e anniversary of the newspaper.
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