About growing up – NOT for kids

About growing up – NOT for kids

Zerocalcare: Tentacles at My Throat (Un polpo alla gola; BAO Publishing 2018)

Many thanks to Nimue Kiadó for sending me the book!

Zerocalcare, originally known as Michele Rech, is the most popular Italian comic artist of the last 20 years. He spent his childhood in France, later he moved to Rome. During his career as a graphic designer, he designed illustrations, posters, covers for various newspapers, but also worked in telephone customer service, at the airport, and translated hunting and fishing documentaries. His first book, The Armadillo Prophecy, has won several prestigious awards, worth 17 editions in Italy and has sold 100,000 copies and has now become a true modern classic among comics. Zerocalcare is currently writing a comic blog called zerocalcare.it, which is very popular, although it doesn’t cover the usual superhero stories, but writes on very serious topics. His comics are brutally honest and touchingly deep. Today, more than a dozen of his books have been published and his own animated series will debut on November 17th on Netflix.

Tentacles at My Throat is an autobiographically inspired, three-part comic strip, in which we can follow the stages of young Calcare’s growing up. The topics are covering the questions of ordinary life, which have touched or continue to affect all the readers today: the compulsion to belong to a community, the fear that we are not good enough, the desire to find a purpose in life, and the secrets that squeeze our throats like the arms of octopuses.

The story a bit tormented me because – in all its exaggeration – it was so true. Even ifsuch extreme things have not happened to me, I could still understand Zero’s problems, yet I didn’t agree with his friends’ cruelty. The black-and-white illustrations amplify the drama of the story. The most important lesson for me was how deep marks the school leaves in the children. It could easily be said to be imprinting on us, “like Konrad Lorenz in his geese”.