Interview with Jean-David Morvan for Madeleine

It is one of the beautiful recent editorial phenomena. Jean-David Morvan (archives) and his co-screenwriter, the resilient Madeleine Riffaud, are both authors of the album Madeleine, Résistante designed by Dominique Bertail and published on the Aire Libre label by Dupuis editions. Madeleine Riffaux spent her life resisting, starting at a very young age with the German occupiers. So, a great reporter, she will meet the news in the front line. Jean-David Morvan is one of the very rare screenwriters who is capable of only the best. He does not like the formula. Too bad. His work is eclectic, always precise, well-crafted, and this time, as in Irena or Simone, which has just been published, Memory’s work, intelligent and bearing, also reigned. At the last book festival in Paris, of course, Morvan answered Ligne Claire’s questions about Madeleine, but not only. Interview by Jean-Laurent TRUC.

Jean-David Morvan. EdlM ©

Jean-David Morvan, Madeleine, Resistant has become an award-winning publishing phenomenon and memory acts. Is pre-publishing in a notebook a publisher’s choice?

It really feels like an event. The preview is an idea from José-Luis Bocquet because he said “if we make a big book of 100 pages, Madeleine, who is still old, will not get it right away. He therefore chose to make his notebooks, so Madeleine should have close releases.First, it’s really for her.

When you say you wrote with her, is that really so?

Absolutely. She tells me things, we make scenes, I read it back to her because she looks very bad, presents the panels, and she suggests changes for me. “We could place this scene before the other, change this sentence, which is not accurate enough.” She really has an analytical mind, but she’s told stories all her life. A great journalist, war reporter, storyteller holds no secrets for her.

Madeleine Riffaud
Madeleine Riffaud. Dupuis ©

The whole scenario is not written yet?

No, it’s in his head. But I have hundreds of hours of footage. They are no longer interviews. I let her talk and I only manage to cut her off by rejecting her points. We have known each other for a long time now.

The choice of Dominique Bertail for the drawing was also suggested by the publisher?

No, we’ve known each other with Dominique since I started making comics. We started almost simultaneously. Before Shandy he had released. One day I was looking for a designer to make June 6, 44 at Robert Capa. I ran into him and asked him. He accepted and since then I wanted to do something longer with Dominique. For Madeleine, it seemed obvious to me.


When one reads the pages it is really clear.

We can no longer imagine Madeleine’s life other than the sign of Dominique. It is very strong.

When you read the notebooks and then the album, you think it was her, it was him.

It’s there. We were so convinced that it had to be him that we waited for him for a year because Dominique was busy. When working with Madeleine, who was 95 at the time, one had to be sure.

Another point is that not only is the time of war a theme that means something to you through other albums, but it is also an important role these days where it is important to do a memory act?

Absolutely, and that’s what Madeleine wants to do, talk to people today, and that’s why she said yes to making comics. At first she refused, and then she realized the significance of the comic to the public.


Memory transfer because these are generations that no longer know.

Yes, but now with Irena and Simone I do interventions in classes from CM2 to Terminale. A week in Caen recently and they are very interested. All ages.

Are these landmarks more accessible to them than to 30-40 year olds?

Yes, because we have not overwhelmed them with information about this period, war, occupation, resistance, Shoah. After all, they see a lot of scattered images. When I go to meet them, they talk about it and we connect things together.


There are also emotions because they are tragic fates. Children faced with the worst, sometimes feeling it or not.

In Irena, comics a little apart, the parents in the ghetto know that their lives are over. Children get used to it like the normal life. It can be worse for those who want to survive. What will this education provide in the ghetto later?

How do the students react?

In high schools and colleges, teachers got them to work on the subject. So it’s amazing. We continue Madeleine, of course, but it is true that I have often gone on this theme.


Of sensitivity, felt?

Also because it is strong. It affects people, but I do not want to make things that are for Wikipedia factual on these topics. It’s a little weird what I want to say, but it lacks height, a point of view in many albums. Not always because there are good books, but we try to put empathy in it and pass it on. It goes through storytelling tricks that we try. In Simone, I get her to chat virtually with her whistleblower. We do some daring storytelling.

We return in this album to Barbie, her role at the Gestapo in Lyon, the filmed trial. We say to ourselves that here, too, there are material traces of History.

More than that, because everything happens in Lyon, where how many young Lyonnais walk around the city without knowing what happened. The day they get the album, they will remember going through tragic places, the resistance, the shootings, the bombings. It’s good to immerse myself in this cartoon in everyday life and myself there are names that mean nothing to me, metro stations like Jacques Bonsergent. When I pass in front of the boards on the walls, I want to make the city sensitive to people being touched. That’s a bit of my goal.


How many volumes for Madeleine?

Seven. We had started on three, the war and the liberation of Paris. We would continue. Madeleine then meets Eluard who falls in love with her, she meets Picasso, Ho Chi Minh, she goes to Indochina as a war reporter, to Algeria, she is seriously injured by the OAS in an attack. She still suffers from it. Then there is the Vietnam War. For the number of albums, we had to see how volume 1 would work. We saw, and so said Dupuis banco. Madeleine asked the director of Dupuis that the contracts be concluded immediately. (laughs) That she was not young anymore. A hell of a woman, very strong. The very important volume 3 will be published in August 2024 (Madeleine will be 100 years old) for the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. Madeleine was very important to the French, who always remember her articles as a brilliant and objective journalist. On the project page, I write, among other things, the Magnum agency’s 75th anniversary.


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