The OF Blog: David Soares and Pedro Serpa, Palmas Para O Esquilo (Palms for the Squirrel)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

David Soares and Pedro Serpa, Palmas Para O Esquilo (Palms for the Squirrel)

A few weeks ago, Portuguese writer David Soares contacted me and asked if I would be interested in reading a new graphic novel he had recently published.  Not being familiar with the title of the work, I said yes, as Soares, in my opinion, is one of the best living Portuguese fantasists today.  Yesterday, I received the promised graphic novel and while I am much too dignified to do anything akin to a squee, I will admit that I laughed a bit at the title, considering that he is very aware of my healthy squirrel fascination.  This late 2013 graphic novel, Palmas para o Esquilo (Palms for the Squirrel), however, is no joking matter, as it is one of the more profound graphic novels that I have read in recent years.

The story begins with the end and it proceeds to a beginning, a beginning of a little boy who identifies himself as a squirrel, despite the social condemnations of this.  In some senses, it could be the tale of someone who has "gone mad," or at least lives in a sort of dissociative state, where the mundane and the weird, the "normal" and the "insane," mesh.  Pedro Serpa's illustrations integrate Soares' words on madness and the oft-self-delusional state of human existence to create a work that troubles those readers who pause to consider the characters and their reflections on life and reality.

In his earlier prose works that I have reviewed here, I have noted Soares' talent for creating memorable scenes through deft use of dialogue and description.  In the graphic novel medium, where words are at a premium and which often depend upon the ability of the illustrator to render the characters' internal monologues and dialogues as near to pitch-perfect as possible, Serpa's drawings of the protagonist's struggle to understand why he considers himself to be as much squirrel as human deepen Soares' dialogue, making for a worried, concerned main character whose experiences, while perhaps far beyond the norm for most of us, allow the reader to be sympathetic toward him and to consider his dilemma at length.

Some might consider the premise, a man who sees himself as a squirrel and who yearns to be as wild and free as one, to lack an appropriate amount of gravitas.  Yet the contrary occurs here.  There is a plethora of thought-provoking moments and comments and while I wish I could quote a few of them here, they are alas too integrated with the accompanying illustrations (not to mention they would reveal the climax too much for those readers who might be curious enough to order a copy of this work).  Suffice to say that Palmas para o Esquilo is a work that surprised with with its depth of emotion and its keen insight into human nature.  Soares is a very talented writer and his second foray into writing graphic novels demonstrates his wide-ranging abilities.  Very high recommended for those who can read Portuguese and who have a willingness to read graphic novels for more than just vapid action/adventure scenes. 


paulo brito said...

Can I use two reviews made by you about David Soares(since they are in English) to publish in The Ironic Fantastic #3?

You can see more about the project at

Larry Nolen said...

Sure, go ahead.

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