Saturday, March 7, 2009

Kaspar by Diane Obomsawin

The story of Kaspar Hauser is mysterious and fascinating, and one with which I was previously unfamiliar until I read Diane Obomsawin's compelling graphic novel, Kaspar. On May 28, 1828, a sixteen-year-old boy appeared on the streets of Nuremberg with nothing but the clothes on his back and a mysterious note addressed to the captain of the 4th squadron of the 6th cavalry regiment. The boy could speak only a few words and could offer no clue to his identity. The note suggested that he had, until that day, never stepped foot out of his house, having been fed and taught some basic lessons by his unknown guardian, the writer of the note. As Kaspar learned to speak, he related his story--he claimed to have been raised in a dark, tiny cell with absolutely no human contact except for a man in black who kept his face hidden. Truly, the story only gets weirder from here, and Obomsawin's book does a fantastic job of relating Kaspar's strange and much talked about life and death with "minimalist grayscale panels and the simplest of line work." She bases much of her book on Kaspar's own writings so the reader is granted rare access into the workings of a very bizarre, misunderstood, and possibly mentally ill individual. It's juicy stuff, to be sure, and the mystery of Kaspar Hauser still confounds historians to this day.

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