In 2008, when Christophe Chabouté's Tout Seul (Alone) was released in France, it was hailed as a masterpiece in storytelling and declared an official selection for the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival. This black-and-white graphic novel is a visually poetic, thought-provoking tale of how isolation contrasts with the rich realm of the imagination.

Two men on a barge deliver supplies to an isolated lighthouse in the middle of the sea. Its lone occupant is a disfigured man who has never ventured beyond the lighthouse's watery boundaries. The boatman, a recently released convict, takes an interest in the hermit and begins to ask his skipper questions about the man's life. The scene pans from the boat to the sea and back to the lighthouse, where it exposes the hermit's daily routines, which include fishing by day, keeping the detritus he catches on a windowsill, and performing routine maintenance around the lighthouse. Before bedtime, the hermit drops a dictionary onto his desk and selects a random word on a random page. This is his only mode of entertainment apart from watchful contemplation.

Chabouté's (Park Bench) drawings show the wonderment and quiet delight of the hermit's imagination as he conjures up his visual definitions. Photos the boatman has left behind with a shipment prompt him to question his place in the world, the panels widening against a canvas of sea and sky, heightening the sense of aloneness and growing despair. The result is a wistful and evocative story that explores the power of the imagination and a yearning for connection. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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