Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté – a healing graphic novel

Why do I want to read this graphic novel?

A month ago, I was listening to a podcast called “不要把天聊si” which discussed the topic of emotional relationships. When talking about fun things lovers can do together, the podcaster recommended a graphic novel called Park Bench. Even though I am single, after a brief introduction, I thought it was a romantic and creative work and immediately purchased the book on Taobao.

I’ve been swamped during this period and didn’t take it out until last night before I went to bed. Despite being over 300 pages long, I read it in half an hour with fascination and immersion, and I still couldn’t get enough of it.

Who is the author?

The author Christophe Chabouté is a French author and illustrator. He has been described as a “poet among cartoonists” and has received numerous prizes for his very personal illustration and storytelling style.

What kind of graphic novel is it?

No dialogue, no preface, no postscript, no background introduction, only a few simple keywords. But Christophe’s gorgeous inked art perfectly captures the characters’ body language, so you always know what’s happening on the page – his storytelling is exceptionally high level. If it were less, the book wouldn’t be nearly as practical.

Christophe tells the story of a park bench’s “life” – the people who walk past it, sit on it, who they are, what they’re doing, and so it sounds gimmicky and contrived but explores the simplest of ideas yet creates heartbreak and wonder.

There is a pair of young boys and girls, a glum businessman, a sportsperson, an entertainer, an old woman reading, a skateboarder, a painter, a homeless man, a local police officer, a man holding flowers, an old couple, and a dog. They have all kinds of interactions with this bench.

The young boy and girl are the first to appear in the story. The boy used a knife and worked hard to carve his and the girl’s initials on the bench with the love icon. The bench recorded this innocent and sincere way of expressing his love for the girl.

A glum businessman is just hurrying along, ignoring the bench.

A sportsperson would take a break on the bench and then run ahead.

An entertainer always carries a ukulele, playing and singing alone on the bench. People came and went, but no one ever threw a penny into the empty cup he placed on the floor.

An older woman often comes here to read a novel that never seems to end, but she is disturbed by the person sitting next to her every time.

A skateboarder treats the bench as a barricade to play on, flies up the back of the bench, slides down it beautifully, and leaves in style.

A painter checks the bench now and then, dutifully doing his maintenance job.

A homeless man sleeps on the bench every night, and his nemesis, the local copper, fruitlessly tries to keep him away from the park.

A well-dressed man holding flowers always comes here as if waiting for his sweetheart but leaves disappointed every time.

An old couple always comes together, shares a pastry, and is happy and peaceful.

There is also a dog that always pees by the bench and then leaves leisurely.

Year in, year out. This bench is like a camera of the years, silently recording the figures coming and going—the time on the bench for each passerby, but a few insignificant moments. However, the story is far from so bland. Connect these moments to find that the story here tells the truth about many lives, and you may be the story’s protagonist.

How did I feel after reading this graphic novel?

Life is hard to fathom, from stalemate to reconciliation, until you experience it yourself.

When we were young, we all had misunderstandings and disdain for the previous generation or others. However, we can genuinely understand many feelings in life after we have experienced them ourselves.

The copper in the story always came to chase away the homeless man who spent the night on the bench. Knowing that he had retired and sat lost on the bench, the copper understood the homeless man’s lonely and unsupported situation. So when the new copper wanted to drive away the homeless man, the retired copper came forward decisively to protect the “old nemesis.”

The situation after retirement so that the copper finally understood the homeless man, the standoff for many years “old nemesis” reconciled, and a retirement gift of fishing rods became a testimony to their friendship.

We have all been that copper, for we have all opposed people and things we did not understand. However, as time goes by and we look back, we also laugh at ourselves for our former ignorance, and this is how we grow in the process of constant reflection.

It is never too late to change.

We have all envisioned an ideal future, but in the end, many of us have become an ordinary employees, doing a job that can make ends meet but may not be happy, living a life without a ripple.

We are trapped in reality, the beautiful vision hanging far in the sky. If you are not happy at all, shouldn’t you change? Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and this is a question that only you can answer.

The glum businessman passed by the bench almost daily, but he was always downcast, tired, lifeless, and never looked up to enjoy the park’s scenery. Was this his life?

One day, he had enough of the constraints of the suit and tedious work, and he threw away his handbag, took off his shoes, and sat comfortably on the bench. At this moment, he resumed his long-lost freedom and was full of happiness and laughter that we had never seen before.

Sometimes the change is an outburst of emotions accumulated over a long period, and sometimes it is the effect of a chance event. Either way, it is never too late to change in a better direction.

Persevere and cherish those precious beauties in life

Love from the heart is the source of motivation in life. For example, an amateur interest or a sincere emotion is the precious beauties that enrich life. To seize these beauties, we must persist and not lose them.

The entertainer insists on playing his music; even if it is not appreciated, he never gives up and keeps exploring. Until one day, he met the businessman, and they improvised together, giving people a performance that touched their hearts. To bring happiness to himself and pleasure to others is the beauty he reaped from his endless love.

The persistence in love is even more precious. The old couple shared a warm and sweet pastry as their first love, the pair of kids finally married after years of persistence, and the bench witnessed their love for each other. Love requires management, and management requires persistence. We often see those enviable couples’ tacit interaction, but we do not see them behind the persistence of years of hard work.

In the end, Christophe brings quiet, commonplace poetry to imbue an inconsequential setting with life and meaning. There is loss and joy on this bench, endings, and new beginnings. The beauty of this book lies in the steadfast way it allows us to observe and admire a place we have passed a hundred times and will pass a hundred times more. Nobody else in the book knows the moments that pass, but we are. In Park Bench, we watch as the world goes by, and each life takes its steady course. So, read it and enjoy this healing and warm story.



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