The Garden of Desire

By Will & Desberg, translated by Michael Koch (Eurotica/NBM)
ISBN: 1-56163-009-8

If you’re old enough to remember the 1960s you might recall the twin popular fascinations of Victoriana (a plethora of books, films and TV shows set in those heady days of Empire) and Sex.

Actually there had always been sex, but in England no-one had seen or done any since before the War. What occurred during the Civil and Social Rights liberalisation of the “Summer of Love” was that heaping helpings of sauciness and skin started to creep into the media. Eventually we’d even sink so low that photographs of naked young ladies would replace cartoons and comic strips as the best way to sell newspapers.

It didn’t take long before period fiction – especially films – added lots of salacious, cheerful nudity and entrendres (double and single) to their product.

In the manner of that innocently rude time (and such classics as The Best House in London and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones) is this lovely slice of Euro-whimsy from Will and Desberg. Willy Maltaite, one of the Continent’s greatest and most prolific artists, worked for Spirou on the fairytale fantasy ‘Isabelle’ among many others. In the 1980s he worked with comics writer Stephen Desberg on a series of light-hearted albums for adults (European adults, so the sex is tasteful, beautifully illustrated and sardonically funny) that our chuckle-parched, po-faced world could well use now. As far as I know The Garden of Desire is the only one of their works to lapse into English.

It follows the amorous antics and career of Michael Loverose, whose well-to-do English mother was seduced by a mysterious stranger. The resulting embarrassment was packed off to boarding school as soon as possible and from there he roamed the wide world in search of love and adventure – but mostly love…

Spanning the turn of the 20th century to the heady days between the World Wars this sly and gentle tale luxuriously blends comedy, self-exploration and innocent lust with a tiny dose of real magic in a way only those sophisticates across the Channel can.

Great fun perfectly executed and a style of story we should be revisiting in these pell-mell, oh-so-serious modern days.
© 1988 Will-Desberg/Ed. Dupuis Charleroi Belgium. © 1991 NBM for the English Translation. All right reserved.