Arrow

Dino Buzzati (1906-1972) knew breasts. His 1969 graphic novel, Poem Strip, portrays countless pairs. In dots and lines, thick, fine, and crosshatched, he forms globular, pointed, pendulous, pancake, and puffy-nippled breasts—a Penthouse gallery of mammaries. The diverse tits belong to women of an underworld, “the afterlife,” which Poem Strip's protagonist, Orfi (a modern Orpheus), descends into after seeing his love, Eura, spirit through its little door opening.

Mortal and mournful, Orfi searches for Eura in a shifty Surreal hereafter populated by babes. A beige overcoat is the Virgil to his Dante; it speaks and gestures, visibly empty, the most masculine figment of this underworld. The coat speaks on the state of non-being of the beyond’s inhabitants. They feel no pain, nor fear (what for?); here is timelessness. After life, in death, all human passion, vice and virtue, are void. The dead experience, “only sameness, predictability, boredom.” And longing. Longing without the joyous ache of maybe. The message to us alive is clear: it’s death, the grand mystery of life, that impassions; impermanence which gives our moments meaning.

The afterlife Buzzati draws is his mortal creation. Clearly handmade, Poem Strip makes this clear. So: what mortal purpose does it serve, this fantasy of death? As one once-upon-a-time preoccupied with existential dread, so fearing of a null afterlife, I might as well have been dead, this book is, for me, like much art, a call to live voraciously. Buzzati’s afterlife is neither a heaven nor hell—this eternity’s indifferent. Its occupants' numbness reads like the plight of a depressive nihilist for whom any action is impossible. But then! Buzzati reminds: “This dread was itself beauty, light, the salt of life.” And more! The work’s luscious forms, eerie patterns, sun bleached palette, and lyrical poetry egg us to keep on keeping on. Tit set after tit set, song after song (Orfi sings, of course), Buzzati indulges his wants. Art, sex, beauty, and storytelling are his answers to a godless world’s why bother.