Speech is silver …
Good communication is not necessarily the rule in interpersonal discourse. Julia Bernhard, a graphic artist and illustrator, compellingly demonstrates this in pictures and words. In the end, the only escape is the couch, but it turns out quite differently than you’d expect.
By Holger Moos
Julia Bernhard’s comic book debut Wie gut, dass wir darüber geredet haben (Good Thing We Talked It Over) is evocative of a well-known quote from the song Das Ende der Beschwerde by Peter Licht, roughly, “Company is great if it weren’t for the people.” And for the illustrator, as she says in an interview with the online magazine jetzt, it’s about society’s, or “people’s,” expectations, especially of young women.
The episodic comic book consists of ten snapshots that could hardly be more different. As a granddaughter, the protagonist suffers under the constant reproaches and humiliations her grandmother dishes out. Then she’s forced to listen to her girlfriend’s relationship problems. When she takes her distress seriously, her friend accuses her of being a bitter single.
praises of love from a pug’s perspectiveOne uncommon episode is an interpretation of First Corinthians from the Bible, particularly the chapter on love, by a pooping pug who feels at odds with being anthropomorphised. And the complaints of a neglected houseplant to its owner are something we’ve never seen or read before.
The other episodes are also about human, all-too-human, traits. “Actually, all we’re looking for is someone who won’t weep out of pity when we undress in front of him,” is a soliloquy with a slowly flaring toaster. The main character is often confronted with monologues; even the dialogues have something of monologues about them. There’s the lover who insists she doesn’t want to be in a relationship (“Emotional attachment totally hampers me in my growth, as an individual, you know?”), or the date that rebuffs her as well (“Dating is like an election campaign. You just tell the other person what they want to hear.”).
Eat. Shit. DieBernhard has already received several awards for her comic book. She was a finalist in the Leibinger Stiftung’s Comicbuchpreis of 2019. She won the Design Talent category of the Designpreis Rheinland-Pfalz 2018. In their statement, the jury commends her reduced, but suitably detailed drawing style in which every line hits home. They go on to say, “Likewise, the punch lines, or the obvious omission of a punch line, hit home. Just as lost as the protagonist, readers are left by the wayside, only to be caught up again on the next page when yet another tragicomic encounter with the self or others is overcome, often by drifting off into a dreamland in surreal moments in which one, joyfully abashed, finds oneself again.”
The young woman, who is seen in transitional pictures flopping, rolling or trying to relax on a couch, frames the episodes. Above the couch hangs a poster with the significant, to wit realistic, words, “Eat. Shit. Die.” When, in the final, wordless chapter, the character completely surrenders to her couch, the reader, if in the right misanthropic mood, wants to crawl right in beside her.
Bernhard, Julia: Wie gut, dass wir darüber geredet haben
Berlin: avant-verlag, 2019. 96 S.