This, the most ambitious of Klaus Lelek’s many illustrated narratives, appears to have several alternative titles, so may be variously The Big/Little/Small Monastery/Abbey on the Banks of the Meuse. For the purposes of this portfolio we have followed the ‘published’ version.

Whether the establishment concerned is large or small, the plot is the same. We are in Paris at the time of the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The Saarbrücken Benedictine monk Michel Puderbach is in the Abbaye prison, awaiting the guillotine for the crime of seducing Robbespierre’s favourite mistress. As he reflects on his life, his thoughts revolve around the town of Péchésviller-sur-Meuse (péché is French for sin), the small riverside town where everyone has sex all the time, including the lascivious Monsieur Bouc, abbot of the Benedictine monastery, and his voluptuous mistresses Thérèse and Marianne.

The graphics of Lelek’s story are self-explanatory, though the plot – and especially the language – require a little explanation, which is provided in the first few pages in a hilarious (and maybe not entirely intended) polyglot of French, German and broken English. As Lelek explains, ‘Since Lorraine has only been part of the Grande Nation for a generation thanks to the friendly troops of Louis XIV, the actors speak terrible French, or rather a mixture of Moselle Franconian and French, an insult to all Francophile language perfectionists, and especially to French teachers. Anyone who has a sense of humour, on the other hand, will learn much of the noble language in a playful, cheerful way in this bilingue bande dessinée, so they will easily be able to order a coffee in Strasbourg.’ To add to the amusement, the German is mostly translated into pidgin English, resulting in some wonderfully seductive lines.

It appears that this is just the first of three parts of a trilogy, the last two of which are still in gestation. Part 2 will be Katharina la Grose and her two servants Ficks and Wichs, and Part 3 The Visitor from Prussia.

Despite the erotic hilarity of The Big Abbey, this ambitious project does also contain some of Lelek’s best graphics, worthy of a place alongside the masters of French erotic art.