In 1976, Jean-Louis Tripp lost his younger brother, Gilles. In 2019, he decided to tell this tragic event in a graphic novel, “The little brother”, published by Casterman. A story without taboos, at once factual, personal and emotional.
It all begins one summer day in Brittany, August 5, 1976. The young Jean-Louis, 18, is on vacation with his family and his girlfriend. He has two younger brothers: Dominique, 14, and Gilles, 11. The day is fun and sunny, until the evening. As he gets out of the family car, Gilles is brutally hit by another speeding car. Jean-Louis held her hand. At the moment of the shock, the hands of the two brothers separate. Jean-Louis then sees a green flash.
The cover of Jean-Louis Tripp’s graphic novel, “The Little Brother”. [Casterman]This image will haunt Jean-Louis Tripp for a long time: “The car came very far from the left and mowed him down on the running board. I felt guilty for letting him go down on this side. It happened a few seconds close”, he explains to the RTS. In his 300-page graphic novel, the scriptwriter and designer from Montauban in the Occitanie region recounts, from his point of view, the course of the tragic event.
He draws, without taboo, the complete unfolding of the scene: Gilles’ hand moving away, then his body, twirling in the air during the collision with the car. A well-considered decision. “I don’t do much introspection, but I wonder if I didn’t do the whole book with the purpose of drawing this particular page, because that’s the only thing I didn’t see. Instead, I saw a flash of green. Then my brother was twenty-five yards down the road and the car was disappearing in the distance.”
Drawing to fill memory gaps
When he draws autobiographically, Jean-Louis Tripp does so surgically. “I draw like a line with a scalpel on a time line. I then connect to the emotions I felt at the time and I try to restore them as faithfully as possible to share them with readers.”
In addition to his emotions, the author shares official documents related to the accident, such as the police report and the testimony of his mother, with whom he spoke during the preparation of the book. “These factual aspects are not questionable: my brother was indeed mowed down that day, at that time on the road. The driver left and the ambulance took him to the hospital. He died there and I went to the gendarmerie to make my statement. We then brought the body back to Montauban.” As for the interview with his mother, it allows him to fill in his memory lapses to reconstruct in an exhaustive way what happened.
Factual reconstruction aside, the rest of the comic is centered around Jean-Louis Tripp’s point of view. “These are my emotions and I can only talk about what I saw and felt. I can also tell, through my eyes, how my parents and loved ones experienced this loss. But I never put thoughts in someone else’s head, because our feelings are all different.”
A plate from the comic strip “The little brother” by Jean-Louis Tripp. [Ed. Casterman]
A different mentality
It was not until the summer of 2019 that the author decided to adapt this part of his life in comics, following coincidences explained at the end of the book. “The accident happened forty-six years ago. Nobody, including me, imagined that I could make a book about it. But when the idea arose, I wrote the book very quickly. Today today, if something like that happened, we would resort to psychological cells. But in the mentality of the time and my mother’s mentality, we have to keep these things to ourselves, while trying not to show our pain too much. .”
Interview by Anne Laure Gannac
Web adaptation: Myriam Semaani
Jean-Louis Tripp, “The little brother”, Casterman editions.
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