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Epileptic (L'Ascension du Haut Mal #1-6 omnibus)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  7,186 ratings  ·  419 reviews
Hailed by The Comics Journal as one of Europe’s most important and innovative comics artists, David B. has created a masterpiece in Epileptic, his stunning and emotionally resonant autobiography about growing up with an epileptic brother. Epileptic gathers together and makes available in English for the first time all six volumes of the internationally acclaimed graphic wo...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 4th 2005 by Pantheon (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

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R. C.
Throughout history epileptics have been maligned. Even today they are mistreated in hospitals and misunderstood by community members. A lifelong epileptic having focal seizures (a type that are not generally known by laypeople like ER admissions staff), I have developed a defensive anger that hops up and shouts, or would, if the seizures didn't make thinking and moving like wading through pea soup.

This book is an amazing work of art. The story of the artist's youth with an epileptic brother is n...more
Tony Diaz
David B's "Epileptic" turns out to be a frustrating read for some of us with epilepsy. I respect the author's experience, but shudder at the idea of the inexperienced forming conclusions about epileptics based on his feelings toward his brother (presented as "the" titular, as if exemplary, epileptic). More personally, B's exasperation with his brother chimes with the desperate denial I know I sometimes engage in in the face of an onrushing seizure: I can overcome it if I just fight the shocks an...more
Was I too stupid to appreciate this book, friends?

I ask, because it exhausted me. It exhausted me, and I didn’t like it. Much. At all.

But people I trust (Mariel!) have given it high ratings, and it makes me worried that what I mistook for endless pages of hubris and heavy-handed pretentious asshattery and an inability to tell a story in any sort of sensical (is this a word?) order is actually depth and skill and poetry and I was just too dumb to see it.

Because for me, the reading experience cons...more
One of the self imposed criterea I use for deciding how many starts I'm going to give something is how often I think of the content, the characters, the art etc after I've read it.
This one has come to mind a lot. While the story is mainly about David B's epileptic brother it is also very much about siblings and family roles, it's also about how people try, desperately to impose control and order in life.

I felt alternately sorry for and irritated with the parents and worried endlessly about both...more
Graphic memoir, what a popular and critically successful genre for comics these days. This book belongs on a shelf with Blankets and Persepolis: A strange and exceptional childhood illustrated in a way that reveals emotional perceptions through cartooning. Though Epileptic is far worse than Thompson's and Satrapi's books.

The story is profoundly interesting, a family deals with the epilepsy of their oldest childest by diving into various fringe New Age practices in France from the late 60's and...more
I haven't yet read enough graphic novel memoirs to be able to say this with any authority, but this must be one of the most intense and tragic works the genre has produced (if it isn't, I'm not sure I could handle the others). The immediate story that "Epileptic" tells is that of the effect on the author and his family of his brother's Epilepsy – the impact it has on their education, ambitions, careers; the many doctors, quacks, and fake spiritual gurus they placed their faith in over the years...more
Mar 24, 2008 A rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: read-2008
Unquestionably the worst comic book I have ever read, and among the worst books (period) that I have ever had the displeasure of having suffered through. Pretentious, long-winded, uninteresting conceptually and plot-wise, excruciatingly scattered and disjointed (in the WRONG way), and completely amateurish and one-trick when it comes to the drawing style. This looks and reads like (and may actually contain?) the immature student sketches of someone who might someday perhaps maybe grow into a gre...more
Cameron Johnson
I picked up this book purely for the title: Epileptic. As someone with epilepsy, diagnosed in my teens, I thought it would be interesting to read someone's story about their experiences with it, as literature featuring epilepsy is hard to find. I was surprised to find out that the author did not have epilepsy, but it was in fact his brother.

My mixed feelings about this book are directly related to my own feelings as someone with epilepsy. The author's brother is depicted as the eye of the storm...more
Ziqi Wang
This graphic novel left me in awe--it was a memoir full of imagination. The story circles around the author's family and their struggles with their eldest son's (Jean-Christophe) epilepsy. The trials and tribulations are depicted with heartbreaking honesty, but the author interweaves sub-naratives sprung from his fantastic imagination. The creatures he draws and the atmosphere he creates remind me of the film Spirited Away (there's definitely a strong cinematic quality about this comic). And tha...more
Matthew Gilboy
the only prior experience i brought to this reading of a graphic novel was 'jimmy corrigan: the smartest boy in the world,' which is why amazon recommended it to me. ultimately, i think that the genre is all that connects them. this book is much more intimate, personal, passionate, and chilling. all things 'smartest' wanted to be but only got 4/5's of the way there.

i myself am an epileptic and there are fewer diseases that this book relates to than just ones that are 'out of control.' the effec...more
I'm stunned. Having just put "Epileptic" down after a marathon non-stop reading session, I can say that David B. has most graphically captured the essence of the struggle one faces with Epilepsy. Epilepsy treats its victims in varied ways. For some, like me, it crops up intermittently...leaves its imprint then disappears only to catch me unaware at another inopportune time. My last seizure was while watching the Super Bowl, second quarter...go figure! David B's brother, Jean Christophe, suffers...more
Mikael Kuoppala
Comic book author David B. continues the proud tradition of biographies in graphic novel form. “Epileptic” is an innovative memoir about the author growing up with a brother who's suffering from serious epilepsy, in a family where the occult was embraces as a beacon of hope for a son whose condition grew steadily worse.

The books works well, it engulfs the reader in symbolic imagery that conveys the emotions from B’s childhood with delicacy and power alike. “Epileptic” manages to be vividly reali...more
A long, hallucinatory autobiography, centered around on the author's brother - who suffers from epilepsy - and the family's attempts at finding a cure. Takes place in 1960s-2000s France, with some flashbacks to the world wars and the war in Algeria.

Overall, I didn't like it very much. While it was initially interesting to learn about the 1960s upbringing - steeped, as it was, in esoteric quasi-cults, psychoanalysis, and fantastic realism - I wearied and grew frustrated. After the family's nth at...more
Dave Riley
I suppose I could blame the indulgences of this autobiographical graphic novel on its Gallicness. It's obsessions are way too exotic for me. Excessive detailing of occult and spiritualism excused as being yet another therapy quest to cure epilepsy.

But why do I have to put up with it?

David B's brother is acutely epileptic and his penchant for ready seizures dominate the family, warping its relationships and sentencing it to always deferring to his illness.

I can relate to that. I know that happen...more
Epileptic is the seminal work by David Beauchard, the French writer better known as ‘David B.’ Described as a ‘six-volume autobiographical epic’, Epileptic tells the story of David’s relationship with his brother, and of his brother’s struggles with epilepsy.

Originally split in to six volumes that were published in France between 1996 and 2003, Epileptic was originally titled ‘L’Ascension du Haut Mal’ and was quickly published in English, going on to receive critical acclaim and winning David th...more
There are graphic novels that are wonderful and then there are graphic novels that transcend the genre and take it to a whole new level. This memoir by French artist and graphic novelist David B. is about growing up in a family with an elder brother who has severe epilepsy. The family try conventional medicine and doctors without much luck in reducing the severity of seizures. Desperate to find an answer, David's parents try a wide range of alternate methods to help their child from macrobiotic...more
Probably the strangest and most memorable approach to autobiographical comics I've seen, this is a story about the author, his older brother and younger sister and parents, and how they were affected by the brother's incurable epilepsy. David B. tells it and tells it, using everything at his disposal: childhood obsessions and dream images, long tangents about every other branch of the family, the history of macrobiotics and spiritualism, his present-day family's reaction to the ongoing book... e...more
Seth Hahne
I’ve known several people over the years who’ve suffered on and off (usually more off than on) from seizures of one sort or another. Fortune favouring me over them, I’ve never witnessed an episode and have only heard tales secondhand. I have however witnessed several faintings. The two are not really at all comparable save for the definitive theft of control from their victims. So while I’ve never witnessed an epileptic event, I am suitably horrified by the possibility.

Every person values contro...more
The two strengths of this book that stood out to me the entire way through were its brutal honesty and its use of visually busy fantastic (in the sense of fantasy or magic[al realism]) enhancements to complement the autobiographical narrative.

Growing up in a family so consumed and exhausted by the countless attempts to cure their eldest child's illness causes many complex and hard-to-admit emotions and side effects. David B. shares his memories and feelings of contempt, empathy, pity, love, and...more
I don't know why, but recently I've been gravitating towards tales (or memoirs) featuring epilepsy. I haven't really been searching it out, it just happens. This was as harrowing as it was uplifting (but not in that Disney "uplifting" way).

Since its a graphic novel, I can review the art as well. I felt the art was too "graphic-designy" at times, but always solid. The story is so engrossing that whatever problems I may or may not have had with the art are easily eclipsed by the honesty of what a...more
I was ready (more than ready) for this book to end. The author drags us through his tortuous childhood spent with an older brother who was epileptic. There is search after futile search for healing and the author grows more and more calloused after each therapy fails. His drawings become darker and darker until the end, when he draws a series of desperate nightmares . . . and then the book basically ends.

The artistry was phenomenal, however, and for that I gave it an extra star. If my second gr...more
In certain ways it this the best graphic memoir I have ever read. The graphical form is somehow perfectly suited to the first person, and the delirium of this memoir perfectly exploits that potential. But David B. is the worst kind of megalomaniac, both honest and lonely. At one point his character declares himself the family's "genius". There are possibly 30 different depictions of the covers of other of the authors books in the pages of this one. But somehow the twisted, unsparing, phantasmago...more
A wistful, melancholy, tender memoir about having and loving and hating a sick sibling whose sickness overwhelms. It is about growing up in a shadow, about vicarious responsibility and guilt, about losing and finding family, about imagination and art.
With fierce honesty about his ambivalence, David B. fully exploits the graphic novel as medium to tear the superficial, factual skin off of memory to reveal the messy, beautiful reality of the fear and hope of childhood.
Holly Cruise
An impressive, weighty tome in both physical appearance and in content, Epileptic is the autobiographical story of a man's childhood and later life haunted by the shadow of his epileptic older brother.

A clear labour of love and dedication, Epileptic has a lot to recommend to it, though it suffers from some problems which meant I finished up admiring but not truly loving it.

I hesitate to start with the bad, but I feel they matter. Firstly, it is too long, which is perhaps an inevitable consequenc...more
Connaissant uniquement David B. pour sa série Les Chercheurs de trésor, j’entends parler depuis longtemps de son chef-d’oeuvre, sans avoir eu l’envie de m’y plonger. L’Ascension du Haut Mal était disponible à la bibliothèque, j’ai donc sauté sur l’occasion.
D’emblée, la préface rédigée par sa soeur m’a touché — je sais, je suis un grand sensible. Puis la découverte de l’oeuvre. La comparaison est facile, mais elle vient tout de suite à l’esprit. On pense immédiatement à Persepolis, une autre BD a...more
L'autore racconta di come la sua famiglia ha affrontato a partire dagli anni '60 il "grande male" (l'epilessia) da cui è affetto il fratello maggiore: fallita la scienza medica si sono rivolti a ogni forma di esoterismo e medicina alternativa, incontrando alchimisti e santoni più o meno efficaci.
Nel frattempo David B sviluppava il suo talento grafico e narrativo che lo porterà ad essere uno dei protagonisti della scena del fumetto francese: fenomenali il gusto simbolista e lo stile grafico netto...more
author's intensely visceral account of his/his family's coming of age with an epileptic brother/son. textually and especially graphically (obviously), david b. brings out the universal in this story -- the searching, the anger, sadness, guilt, epiphany, and catharsis we all go through as individuals and families. this book is awesome. truly deserves a wider audience. falls right in with today's memoir hysteria.
 Sophia B

Interesting story about how a family struggles with epilepsy. But it is chaotic, the structure is far from good and I try to care about the characters but I can't.. This could have been a masterpiece, it has all the right ingredients, and it would have been in the hands of Satrapi or Spiegelman.. Read it to learn about how severe epilepsy can affect a family, but as a novel it didn't succeed.
I thought this came across as rather hostile to people with epilepsy, not to mention self-indulgent as hell. Essentially, David B. claims epilepsy ruined his childhood--not his brother's--because it was stressful for him and his sister. His sister's writing the preface instead of his brother is rather telling. He goes on and on about how difficult his childhood was for HIM and even talks very frankly about how he abused his brother: provoking seizures when he was mad at Jean-Christophe, slapping...more
Steve Wilson
The artwork is ominously intoxicating, but I was maddened by the struggles faced by this family. I suppose that means that the book succeeded in eliciting strong emotions, but I cannot truly say I "enjoyed" the experience. Reading this book pulled me in two directions at once: I was drawn in by the symbolic imagery into a dreamlike state, while simultaneously being repulsed and annoyed by the narrator, the epileptic brother and the parents (particularly the mother). As a graphic novel, I appreci...more
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Pierre-François Beauchard, who uses the pen name David B., was one of the initiators of the French alternative editorial house L'Association, and is now well-known among the French comics audience. After his Applied Arts studies, David B. had his first publications in magazines such as Chic, Circus, Okapi and A Suivre. Among his early creations are 'Le Timbre Maudit', a story published in Okapi, a...more
More about David B....
L'Ascension du Haut Mal, Tome 1 Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams From December 1979 to September 1994 The Armed Garden and Other Stories Epileptic 1 [L'Ascension du Haut Mal, 1-3] Incidents in the Night: Volume 1

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“You can't sit next to me doing nothing while I'm trying desperately to save myself by doing something.” 5 likes
“There is a rage inside me that I mitigate with my constant drawing.” 4 likes
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