Swimming in Darkness is the debut work of Lucas Harari, a student of decorative arts with a special interest in printed works. Before Swimming in Darkness, Harari reportedly self-published fanzines and also worked as an illustrator for other projects. This book was translated with the help of David Homel, a writer and journalist, who has published seven other novels, as Swimming in Darkness was first published in French.
Swimming in Darkness revolves around Pierre, a former Ph.D. student of architecture, who left graduate school after suffering a nervous breakdown and destroying all his work. Pierre finds himself as a bartender, isolated, and struggling with the ramifications of throwing that many years of school away. As someone who has experienced the perils of graduate school, this section spoke to me, especially as the pressures of graduate school and Ph.D. level work are hard to articulate. It is stated that the work Pierre destroyed revolved around his thesis or his final project in order to graduate. So, coming that close to your degree, but then knowing you were the person who sabotaged your career must be devastating.
After a chance encounter with a former mentor, Pierre gets inspired to visit the infamous Vals, a building that houses springs in the Swiss Alps where people visit from all over. Pierre is determined to unlock the secrets behind Vals, but ends up running into another obsessed academic who is also fixated on Vals. What is supposed to be Pierre’s redemption arc quickly turns ugly, but he has already come this far in discovering the secret of the mountain where Vals is located.
Reading Swimming in Darkness is an experience that was chilling in a way that reminded me of House of Leaves, which I will eventually review, but damnit that book is difficult to get through. Anyways, Swimming in Darkness reads like a thriller mystery and was exhilarating as you are trying to also figure out the secret of Vals and why Pierre and creepy unknown man are obsessed with it. Further, the graphic novel draws you in by the stunning artwork, which provide a certain aesthetic that will leave you unnerved, even after you are finished.
Overall, for any collectors of mystery, thriller type graphic novels or just an avid fan, I highly recommend Swimming in Darkness.
Catch Swimming in Darkness from Arsenal Pulp Press now.