than that of unbridled imagination! “
How can a book so suffused with tragedy be so funny? This novel from 2000 is written by the American author Michael Chabon. It is a celebration of the golden ago of the adventure comic book, which spanned the years between the late 1930’s and the early 50’s.
The novel opens in 1939 as Sam Clay meets his cousin, Josef Kavalier, who was smuggled out of Hitler’s Prague with help of a Houdini-like escape artist. The cousins discover they can make something out of their combined talents and ambitions. With Joe as lead artist and Sammy as lead writer they create the “Escapist”, a masked man in tights who can perform daring acts of chain breaking, lock loosening and other feats of liberation. He “comes to rescue of those who toil in the chains of tyranny and injustice”.
Sam manages to convince his boss to start producing and selling the comics that Joe and Sammy will create. The Escapist becomes a success and Sam and Joseph grow their enterprise into a highly profitable empire boosting superheroes of all shapes and sizes. They meet a lot of interesting people, like Orson Welles and Salvador Dali. A New York comes to life, bubbling with swing music, bars and bar mitzvahs, Citizen Kane, pulp novels, bulky costumes and patriotic kitsch. Word War II is still in the background, for all but Josef, who fights his personal war against Germany on the streets of New York but also through the Escapist.
Chabon received the Pulitzer price for the novel in 2001.