Thursday, February 22, 2007

Le Cancer de Maman

I'm not entirely sure, but as best I can tell the French edition of Mom's Cancer, titled Le Cancer de Maman, was released this week. I mentioned last November that I'd been looking over a couple of cover designs for the French version. Here's what they went with:

Back in November, Editor Charlie e-mailed it to me without comment, then called later to ask my opinion. "I love it," I said. "Really?" he replied. "I don't." We then engaged in a charming round-robin discussion that went like, "Tell me what you don't like, I really respect your opinion," "No no, it's your book, if you like it that's fine with me," repeat in a loop for 15 minutes. We're a real comedy team.
The sequence of drawings on the cover is taken from a page of the book in which I show Mom's conflicting and wavering sense of responsibility for her illness while at the same time she loses her hair to chemotherapy:

Abrams used a similar treatment of the images on the back cover of the U.S./English edition. I really liked it there and I really liked it here.

Quick Behind-the-Scenes Story #1: in the first French cover design I was shown, the background was a much lighter shade of blue. The highlight on Mom's sweater was white, as in the original art, and I think her sweater was the darker blue-gray tone. It really didn't work in color; it looked like Mom was wearing a sporty ski sweater with a stripe down the sleeve. My only suggestion was to make the highlight a light blue-gray instead of white, and I think they then went ahead and switched the light and dark blue-grays so that the highlight became a shadow. That's fine by me.

Quick Behind-the-Scenes Story #2: Last I heard, the French publisher had rejected this cover and was going to go with one that looked very much like the profile of Mom used in the English and German editions. If they switched back to this one it's a surprise to me, but this is what's showing up on and elsewhere so I guess that's it. Again, fine by me.

I hope to have some hard copies in my hands soon. It's a cool and vaguely unsettling experience to see my work translated into other languages. I've said before that writing a book feels a little like sending kids off to college, in that you don't really know how they're doing or who they're hanging around with when they escape your grasp. In this case, my kids moved to another country and returned speaking a language I don't understand.

Which is still fine by me.
A Follow-Up Comment on my Recent Book Reviews: I am informed by someone who knows and loves me very much that I am, as I feared, an enormous wheezing bag of hot gas.


Sherwood Harrington said...

"It's a cool and vaguely unsettling experience to see my work translated into other languages," indeed. Even more unsettling is to see one's work in a language you can't read . Here's one of my old columns in a language I don't even recognize (

Even my college diploma is in a language I can't read, though, so I should be used to that sort of thing.

On the other thing: Eta Carinae is "an enormous wheezing bag of hot gas," too, so you're in stellar company.

R said...

Cool! And as for the long as you like it, right? (Personally, I think it's a little plain but I can't think of what I would add to it. It's a little less depressing than the English/German version though!)

L said...

Ahahaha, French translation! ^^ Cool! You definately need to start a collection of the different languages!
It's interesting that they would think a different cover would appeal more to the French-speaking peoples of the world though...hmm...I guess it's cultural or something...

Eric said...

Hi Brian

Very cool! My name is Eric. I'm a brain tumor survivor. Check out my blog

ronnie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ronnie said...

PS I think "Mutter hat Krebs" is still my favourite foreign title.

ronnie said...

(Sorry, found several typos that were making me nuts. Let's try that again:)

Congratulations, Brian!

I found a small review of both your and Miriam's books in French on this French book blog.

Keeping in mind that I am no professional translator, here's what it says en anglais:

(PS Did you have ANY IDEA that the title of Miriam's book was translated in French to "How Cancer made me Love TV and Crosswords"?)

Two testimionies of cancer in comic strip form.

Two American authors deliver, with humour and sensitivity, their testimonies in comic strip form on the cancer to which they or one of their close relatives was victim in two books published recently in France.

“Mom's Cancer” (ED Here and There) is the account of scientific journalist Brian Fies, starting from the day when the doctors diagnose lung cancer and a brain tumour in his aged mother of about sixty years. The book “specifically deals with my family and my mother's fight against cancer, but I am amazed by the number of readers who found themselves in our story”, he writes. The author, whose drawing brings to mind the limpid style of Will Eisner, points out the hesitation of the doctors, the hopes and disillusionment, until the temporarily happy end of the history. Fies notes that doctors wrote to him to say that its book “had helped them to understand the point of view of their patients” and that they use it for teaching in the United States.

In “How Cancer made me Love TV and Crosswords” (Delcourt), Miriam Engelberg tells from her perspective about her breast cancer at the age of 43 years. “The day when I received my diagnosis, the world was divided into two," she writes. "Those who do not have cancer: Yippee! Those who do have cancer: Shit!” Her passion for drawing consequently becomes her principal support. She tells in detail of daily life and reviews all the aspects of her disease. Miriam Engelberg died during the promotion of the work in the United States. (“Mom's Cancer” by Brian Fies - ED. Here and There - 126 p. - 14 euros) (“How Cancer made me Love TV and Crosswords” by Miriam Engelberg - ED. Delcourt - 135 p. - 11,50 euros)

Brian Fies said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments.

Sherwood, you really made me laugh with Eta Carinae. If I ever need a nom de plume, I think that's it. Your paper looks...Polish? (Or maybe Reverse Polish: did you use an old HP calculator when you wrote it?)

R, I like the cover's plainness. It's clean. It also feels vaguely "European" to me, if you know what I mean.

L, I can only assume the publisher thinks they know what the French want to read. And I *have* started a collection of the different languages, goof. All two so far (three, when I get my hands on French). With more to come, I think.

Eric, congratulations on your continued health, nice blog. I liked the entries about hugging and how you'd describe a tree. You're funny, which I imagine helped a lot.

Ronnie, thanks so much for the search-and-translation services. I hadn't seen that before. First time I can recall being compared to Eisner, which is so wrong it's hard to even feel embarrassed about it. Knowing Miriam, I think her title's translation is perfect. Whenever I need a perspective check, I think of her.

Anonymous said...

Great news...
Great comments...
All around...GREAT!

Let us know where we can buy our very own French Copy of Mom's Cancer.

Nurse Sis

PS-I like the cover more than the American Version.

naem said...

yeahh...nice post..i'm really like your cartoon on this blog..hehe..erm, i want to be your friend and be your link on your you want it?this is my blog about Mesothelioma

Brian Fies said...

Hey, Sis, I'll hook you up with a book somehow. Might take a while, though. Thanks for checking in on me!

Naem, I've chosen not to advertise or provide links to other websites on my blog. They're too hard to keep current and make sure they're all legitimate--there's a lot of dodgy cancer information out there. Although your comment looks a bit spammy to me, I checked out your link and it does provide real information about mesothelioma, so I'll let it stay. Thanks.

heroin Mushroom said...

I"m Very bad in english, so I would like to speak you in french.
Je voulais vous remercier pour ce livre qui m a beaucoup touché. Quand je suis allée à la fnac je suis directement tombé dessus.
J'ai appris il y a une semaine que maman avait un cancer et ce n'est vraiment pas facile, j avais aussi decidé d'y faire face et de faire tous les jours un dessin de la situation que je vis.
Vous avez reussit à parler de choses graves tout en ajoutant de l'humour ce qui dedramatise et fait moins peur pou ceux que ca horrifie.
Encore merci.Et aussi à votre maman la haut et votre courage.

Brian Fies said...

Merci, Marie.