Saturday, July 2, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life by Ulli Lust

Image from the Comics Journal
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

While Ulli Lust may have been scared of dying when she was a child, by the age of 17, she was living by the motto, “live as if every day was my last” (Lust 70). In her graphic novel, Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Austrian-born comic artist Ulli Lust relates the experience of her summer across Europe in 1984. The journey is not only physical; it is an emotional journey uses the experiences of the author as landmarks. It also is a story that is conveyed with “honesty,” and no topics are considered too sensitive; Lust mentioned in her interview with Comics Journal that she had to be honest to create “a better story.”

Image from Fantagraphics
Story Information:

Title: Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Creator: Ulli Lust

Translation: Kim Thompson

Publisher (English Translation): Fantagraphics Books

Audience: Adult

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is the tale of Ulli Lust’s travels from Vienna to Italy with her “friend” who is simply called Edi within the book. The two girls travel without passports, traveling supplies, and money, and throughout their trip, they encounter various ways of surviving on the streets and avoiding the police. Ulli Lust and Edi are both a part of the Punk scene of the time, and they meet a variety of people who share their interests. They are separated for a while, and in that time, Lust must survive on her own. Eventually, the two girls are reunited, but their reunion is impacted by Italian crime. Eventually, Ulli returns home, weary of her travels, but more aware of the nature of the world.

It is hard to summarize the plot of Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life. It is a real story with true facts and events, but it is also an odyssey of emotion. With her simplistic style of art, Lust manages to do a wonderful job with portraying her trip to Sicily. Lust’s art also helps convey the emotions of her teenage self and the art, while  cartoon-like, really captures the essence of each scene. Lust never draws herself the same, and it’s fascinating to see how she changes along with the story.

It is also a refreshing story in that Lust does not tone down her message or the events of her past. The graphic novel discusses feminist topics such as rape culture and gender roles. It is never gratuitous in its portrayal of sexual violence, but it presents it in a blunt manner; as a reader, I felt Lust’s recollections had strong emotional power.

It is a longer graphic novel than previous books I have read for “Going Graphic with the European Union,” but it is a tale worth reading. I would recommend this book for audiences interested in feminism and memoirs. I would also recommend it for readers who enjoy travel stories such as On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

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