The Professor’s Daughter
The Professor’s Daughter is a slim, lovely tale, much like its heroine. The daughter of a famous Egyptologist, her adventures begin when she takes the mummy of a Pharaoh, dressed like a Victorian gentleman, out on a walk. They have so much in common, you see, both having to deal with the strict professor treating them like possessions (with more justification in one case, perhaps).
Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat, Dungeon) writes and Emmanuel Guibert illustrates. The two have worked together on Sardine in Outer Space (also published in English by First Second), only in the opposite roles. The watercolor illustrations are worth poring over, and they make the silliest images, like a top-hatted gentleman with bandages instead of a face and hands, plausible. The book is reminiscent of a sprawling bedtime story, with ever-more-ridiculous incidents following one another rapidly.
Moods change quickly as well, with delirium (and beautifully capering figures) followed by melancholia, as the Pharaoh hallucinates speaking with his long-dead children. The comic format allows for dream-like transformations in that sequence, as they transform from ancient Egyptians to a mummy family in then-modern dress. That’s followed by other family squabbles, a kidnapping, a mummy quest, a trial, and niceties of royal protocol. It’s often quite funny, especially to those who have little patience with bureaucracy and societal dictates.
The Pharaoh’s dry sense of humor survives the translation from French to English superbly, while the demanding daughter manages to blame almost everything, including drugging a policeman, on the housekeeper. I admired the parallels the authors drew between the two main characters; even though some of the revelations were ludicrous, the magical atmosphere they created had me fully playing along. There’s a little something in this book for everyone.