Writer(s): David B.
Artist(s): David B.
Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN: 978-0375714689
Price: $17.95
Page count: 368
Year Released: 2006
Status: in print
Original Source: l'Ascension du haut mal tomes 1-6
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: autobiography; coming of age; fantasy; foreign lit; historical fiction; literature; magic realism; teen/young adult
Recommended for Fans Of:
Possible Objectionable Material: coarse language; stylized violence
If You Like This Book, Try: Curses (by Kevin Huizenga)
Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
Epileptic is an autobiographical study of the thirty-year relationship between Pierre-François (whose pen name is David B.) and his older brother, Jean-Christophe, who suffers from epilepsy. Diagnosed with the disease at an early age in the mid-1960s, Jean-Christophe becomes the focal point of his family's energy as they spend the next few decades searching desperately for a cure. Once it becomes clear that traditional medicine cannot help Jean-Christophe with his frequent seizures, his parents turn first to George Ohsawa's zen macrobiotics, then on to acupuncture, spiritism, magnetism, alchemy, and any other nontraditional treatment method of which they learn.

Through all this, Pierre-François's own maturation is continuously influenced by the shadow of his brother's illness. Growing up in a house rife with the apparatus of macrobiotics and the other treatments that his family tries and subsequently discards, François and his brother (whom François views occasionally as separate from the epilepsy--which François sometimes anthropomorphizes as a wrathful demon in the book) escape into their own fantasy worlds: for François, reliving the conquests of Genghis Khan, Tamburlaine, and Attila the Hun; for Jean-Christophe, idolizing the twentieth century's most notorious dictators, including Lenin, Stalin, and even Hitler (though as François explains it, Jean-Christophe's admiration of these men and the power they wielded stemmed from his own helplessness in the face of his disease, not from any sympathy with--or even understanding of--their politics).

But as each new attempted cure fails, the psychological toll these failures take on Jean-Christophe, François, their sister Florence, and their parents merely exacerbates the wounds from which each of them suffers. Ultimately, Epileptic is the tale of a family trying to survive in the face of unrelenting adversity.

My Own 2 Cents
Ostensibly the story of David B. and his brother, Epileptic is in fact much more: a social history of twentieth-century France (from a personal, familial perspective), a survey of various esoteric belief systems (the above-mentioned macrobiotics, acupuncture, spiritism, magnetism, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, etc.) that are explored by the Beauchard family as possible cures for Jean-Christophe's epilepsy, a study of the ideas of Swedish philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg (among others)--and the list goes on. In other words, the book is about much more than epilepsy, and is an incredible artistic achievement. As the author states, "I've read many stories that have helped me. I want to touch people with my books in return." Mission accomplished as far as I'm concerned.

While not quite a tragedy (in the literal sense, anyway), Epileptic nonetheless succeeds in sympathetically exploring the damage that Jean-Christophe's epilepsy inflicts on himself and his family without wallowing in maudlin sentimentality. In my opinion it is one of the best comic books to be published this decade.