One is trapped in memories of past bliss in love, the other in a present of a toxic relationship and unfulfilled desires. Only when the two main characters in Katja Klengel’s “When I was so old” – the pensioner Rosalie who lives in Dresden and her granddaughter, the young musician Lilli – open up to each other do new perspectives open up for the two women.

With a few clear strokes of ink and sensitive dialogues, the illustrator and screenwriter Katja Klengel brings her protagonists to life. The story first appeared ten years ago, back then as a serial comic in the FAZ, which received very positive feedback.

With Klengel, who was just 24 at the time, a young, confident voice, trained in manga and US independent comics, spoke up, but whose flowing line also reminded of French comic innovators such as Bastien Vivès.

Klengel, partly inspired by autobiography, tells of a double self-discovery. Lilli is in a relationship and meaning crisis, her grandmother can’t get over the loss of her husband. Against the backdrop of winter in Dresden, the two women, who at first don’t seem to have much in common apart from a very similar pointed nose, get closer.

Klengel gives her characters plenty of room for quiet, introspective moments, but also has a few unexpected twists and turns and humorous scenes that loosen up the serious story – right up to a grandiose finale, of which nothing should be revealed here.

Klengel’s drawing style impresses with its diversity. Semi-realistic, detailed scenes alternate with sketched panels that only hint at things and convey different moods and feelings. Wisely chosen visual metaphors enrich the statements of important moments.

The characters are convincing, right down to the secondary characters. And the sometimes opulently drawn city scenes are a declaration of love for Dresden, where Klengel studied at the Academy of Fine Arts before going to Berlin to study screenwriting.

From 2017 she published the feminist comic strip “Girlsplaining”, which was also based on an autobiography, which received a lot of praise and several comic awards and was translated into several languages. With “When I was so old”, an important early work by the artist is finally available in an appropriate form, supplemented by an enlightening interview with her on the background in the appendix to the book.