Alain Babel was great friends with the Geneva-based writer and journalist Gérald Lucas (1934–99), and when the publisher La Louve produced a collection of Lucas’s best short stories, originally published in Genève Home Information, each piece was illustrated with one of Babel’s drawings. As the introduction to Chroniques digestes et indigestes (Chronicles Digestible and Indigestible) says, ‘Gérald goes through life like a meteor, an incandescent and fantastic star, swallowing space with his bare teeth, lighting up the shadows, splashing his friends with his dazzling laughter. He makes fun of idiots, happily distributing punches in the mouths and kicks in the asses of the arrogant. This slayer of fools, sower of paradoxes and eccentric ideas, breaths the happiness of living, spreading joy around him. At the bottom of his heart lies the soul of an adventurer, a terrorist for good.’
Babel’s trademark pencil drawings are the perfect foil for Lucas’s witty tales, full of beautiful young women wearing very little going about their daily lives, hanging out the washing, eating together, stroking the cat, sitting on the toilet. And on closer inspection they are surrounded by a range of objects both familiar and strange, from broken railings and woodstoves to chemistry equipment and diving helmets.
Unfortunately the reproduction of the drawings in the book does not do justice to the now-lost originals, but they are still well worth close inspection, letting our imaginations loose just as Babel does his.
Selections from Chroniques digestes et indigestes can be found online (in French) here.