Register Thursday | May 19 | 2022

Tel Aviv in Technicolour

Deborah Ostrovsky introduces an excerpt from Rutu Modan's gripping new graphic novel.

“Do you think that every time we meet a person we should treat it like it was the last time we ever were going to see them?” asks Numi. A young soldier and the female protagonist of Exit Wounds—Rutu Modan’s debut graphic novel about love and loss in contemporary Israel—Numi is talking to Koby, a Tel Aviv taxi driver and the estranged son of her much older lover, Gabriel. The two meet for the first time when a body, burnt beyond recognition, is found at the site of a suicide bombing. So far no one has claimed it. Recognizing a scarf she knitted for Gabriel amidst the debris of the bombing’s aftermath, Numi fears the worst.    

What unfolds after Koby and Numi’s catalytic rendezvous is a deeply moving story about father-son relationships and reconciliation with the past: themes that hold extraordinary weight set against the backdrop of violent political conflict.

Modan’s characters are drawn in bright hues, while the moodiness of their surroundings is expressed in muted browns, yellows and lilac. This contrast creates a powerful sense of distance and depth—both psychological and physical—between the characters and the political and urban landscapes of Tel Aviv. The drawings and dialogue are often playful, infused with irony and dark humour. They also portray a startlingly candid range of emotions as Koby uncovers his father’s secrets in a country where everyday life is tinged with uncertainty.