Bernard Aldebert: A Survivor’s Return

Like many a bibliophile, I enjoy browsing shelves in a used bookshop without any particular goal or author in mind. On one of my last forays, I found the following book:

I had never heard of Aldebert (at that point I was under the misapprehension that ‘Bernard’ was his first name, and ‘Aldebert’ his family name), and the jokes were a bit hit-or-miss, but more than just a few charming cartoons lay within… certainly enough to pick up this book from 1970 for the impressive sum of 12 dollars.

Jean Bernard-Aldebert (1909-1974) was a French illustrator with an interesting, if not devoid of tragedy, life. He started drawing for various satirical publications early on, at 19, and for some fifteen years his career was gradually gaining in traction, his cartoons appearing in such weeklies as in Ric et Rac, Marianne and L’os à mœlle. In 1944, this came to an abrupt halt when he was arrested and deported to a German concentration camp (one of the worst, and the last one to have been liberated by the Allies – Mauthausen) for having depicted Hitler as a chimpanzee in one of his caricatures. Miraculously, he survived, and even set his experiences down on paper – these 50 drawings were published as the album Chemin de Croix en 50 Stations in 1946.

After his return to France, he moved away from satire and caricature (frankly, who could blame him?) and onto more humorous publications like Paris Pin-Up and Fou rire, also illustrating many posters and ads, and drawing two comic strips for Ici Paris (Adonis and GIgolette).

This seemed appropriate, given that spring is clearly in the air!
Bernard-Aldebert might have moved away from satirizing serious topics, but it doesn’t mean he lost his sense of observation of the ludicrous aspects of life.
« If you had just a little imagination, you’d come to the beach! » This is my favourite cartoon from this collection.
If people still had to use a sickle, maybe fewer lawns would be tragically over-mown.
I don’t know what year this haunting photograph is from, but I think we can all agree that these eyes look like they’ve seen too much.

~ ds