All sorts of things are washed up from the shallows of the sea. Fish, old packaging or lost objects end up on the beaches of this world. And, what a surprise, even a woman. In any case, Marie Luis, a former sailor on the Nu Pogodi, meets the three scientists who are doing their research in a weather station on the Kara Sea on this unusual route.
Their expertise in one area, however, cannot hide their real lack of knowledge in the other: the history and life of women.
At the same time, she creates a confusing game of truth and lies. Because you can never be sure whether the eager narrator isn’t trying time and time again to deceive her listeners. However, that is not crucial. The fact that the boundaries between fictional reality and the invented are fluid is what makes the graphic novel so appealing.
First of all, after that mysterious find on the beach, stranded Marie Luis has to be nursed back to health. Under a fishing net, covered with mud, algae and shells, the three scientists find this unknown female creature. She is naked, screaming and kicking as the men try to free her.
Dressed in warm clothes, with bread on a stick and vodka, Marie Luis soon became quite talkative and the three scientists listened spellbound to her words. And they have many questions about women’s lives, such as: “Do you have dreams?”, “Do you like pudding?” or “Do you like carving?”
The anecdotes that Marie Luis then relates as she supposedly travels a lot, provide a cross-section of social issues such as climate change, food shortages or the gender debate. Whether true or invented, fact or fiction – Brenneisen critically examines the roles of women and men in the individual episodes and takes a close look at historical mechanisms of oppression. She sums up the conflicts of our time in a pointed manner, sometimes provocatively and sometimes with a humorous touch.
One story is about Kathrin and her life as a woman in icy regions. Tied to the igloo, she has little room for her own life plans. Childcare is left to her without being able to persuade her husband to do more. Because he only has sprat hunting and ice floe search in view. Well, the well-known argument: the man is indispensable at work, part-time is absolutely impossible.
In addition to this female character, the fictional country in which she lives is also told. It is called Feuerzund and its residents are confronted with very real problems: As nomads, they found a new state in every new place. Everything depends on the ice floe on which they live – literally their livelihood: if it melts, the little people have to move on. The form of government also depends on their size and the corresponding length of stay: only if the icy underground lasts for a long time will the time-consuming democracy become practicable at all.
In another episode, Brenneisen takes up the topic of rape quite explicitly. The men in a village can’t control themselves and constantly attack the women who are considered the most beautiful in the world. Women’s long legs are just so “extremely beautiful” that men can’t resist. The blame lies with the women, of course, and their overly short loincloths, which upset the village’s aboriginal males.
The solution: the so-called “full cloth”, a full-body covering for women. And hey presto the man is completely in tune with his rationale again. Brenneisen consistently plays through what victim blaming means: that women are repeatedly blamed when they become victims of sexual assault. When they allegedly show too much skin because the skirt was too short.
Autobiographical references can also be seen in the graphic novel. Because Brenneisen also brings up the topic of stillbirth and thus her own traumatic experience. After several stillbirths, Yvil, stigmatized as infertile, is expelled from her home village.
With her short blond hair, the character is reminiscent of Brenneisen herself and of the protagonist of her autobiographical comic “The Light that Empties Shadows”. In it, the comic artist processes a stillbirth and the painful time afterwards. For the honest and touching work, which is also graphically impressive, Brenneisen was awarded the Comic Book Prize of the Berthold Leibinger Foundation in 2017.
In “True Stories” the handling of the subject shows that she has regained a little more lightness. The protagonist’s anger, which she initially shouts down the rock face, finally leads to a big coup: the invention of the bow and arrow – albeit to the disadvantage of the villagers.
In addition to the complexity that arises from the different narrative levels and the fictional treatment of socially relevant topics, the comic artist also impresses with her artistic expression. Each story follows a different, distinctive color scheme. The powerful coloring and the special perspectives, also on scenic scenes, unfold a real attraction.
Brenneisen also creates expressive, lively figures with sketchy strokes. In particular, Marie Luis’ idiosyncratic, changeable face with her pointed mouth and huge glasses seems to speak volumes.