This is a revelation. I’ve never heard of Igor Hofbauer before; but this may be the best book I’ve read so far in 2009. Prison Stories is a rolling narrative of seven interlocking stories exploring imprisoned characters. The book is frankly terrifying. Not in a ‘goblins are going to eat my skull’ way, but a ‘humanity has deserted all bonds of allegiance’ way.
In terms of mood imagine Charles Burn’s Black Hole turned up to 11 and you’re getting close to the futility and despair exuded by every character in this book. Terrifying but strangely beautiful at the same time.
The book starts with ‘Nail story’, a short silent comic about an attempted murder and the revenge which has a sense of Jim Woodwring about it. In many ways the story is filled with non-sequiturs, but where as others may use the technique for comic timing here it just adds to the terror.
In many ways, ‘Olympia story’, the second story and the longest in the book by far is more traditionally structured and if you’ve enjoyed anything by Charles Burns or Daniel Clowes you’re in for a treat. I took it as a metaphor for the suffering of a failed celebrity and the anguish the final fan must feel.
The remaining stories continue the theme. All use a stripped down palette of heavy blacks, dark grey and an iridescent orange. Many use no, or very few words, with people inhabiting near soundless, and apparently deserted, cages. Even if that cage is a city. I’d strongly recommend finding a copy. My new aspiration is to create a story that’s halfway towards being as good as these.