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Books

'Charlie Hebdo' illustrator works through attack in new book

Caricaturist Luz has gone to hell and back. He survived the "Charlie Hebdo" attack and has worked through his grief in a new book, "Catharsis." It involves a vampire, but also sunshine and laughter.

On January 7, 2015, Renald Luzier - alias Luz - lost not only friends and colleagues, but also his passion for drawing. On that day, Islamist extremists stormed the Paris office of the satirical publication "Charlie Hebdo" and killed a dozen people. France and much of Europe responded in solidarity with immediate "Je suis Charlie" posts and posters and Luz, still under severe shock, published the first edition of the magazine following the tragedy.

Then the emptiness came, along with the dull pain, the anger and the overwhelming feeling of loss. Luz survived the attack because he came to work an hour late that day. Why were his colleagues murdered and he left alive? The question torments him.

Luz began to write his feelings down and the urge to draw slowly returned. The result is "Catharsis," a therapeutic work in which the caricaturist works through his memories and nightmares.

"Catharsis" is Luz's attempt to get his life back together. "The book is not an account of what happened," he said. "Neither is it a comic. Instead it's the story of the reunion of two friends who almost never saw each other again."

A vampire and a doppelganger

Charlie is mentioned in the book, of course, as are Charb and Cabu, two of Luz's colleagues who died in the attack. But he also includes police, childhood, laughter, red eyes, poetry, a dove, rock 'n' roll and French chanson, rain and sunshine.

In the book, Luz has a conversation with the dull feeling in his belly, which he even names: Ginette. He also talks with his doppelganger at the grave of the editor-in-chief of "Charlie Hebdo," his friend Charb.

A vampire also makes an appearance in "Catharsis." He embraces the caricature in its arms and says, "Thank you for being there. I will always remember January 7." Finally, Luz touches on the omnipresence of the police escorts, who follow him into his bedroom and watch over him and his girlfriend as they have sex.

Kaleidoscope of emotions

At the end of April, Luz announced that he was finished drawing caricatures of the Prophet because he was not longer interested in "the personality of Mohammed." But an Islamist fundamentalist still turns up in "Catharsis."

The book with the small stories, in which the pen itself also pipes up, is a kaleidoscope of emotions. Luz illuminates his everyday life after the attack, brings his thoughts to paper, sheds tears and rediscovers laughter.

"The author wakes up to a new life," writes its publisher, Futuropolis. "It's an unbelievable and necessary book. A classic snapshot."

"Catharis," published by Futuropolis, is available from May 21 in French.