Wednesday, May 23

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr

by Nicolas Debon
Groundwood 2007

This work of graphic non-fiction -- a bio-graphic, if you will -- presents the straightforward account of the life of The World's Strongest Man, circa 1900. The tale is told by Cyr to his daughter on the eve of his last performance, having been told by his doctor only moments earlier that he must stop as his profession is killing him. In the autumn of his days Cyr owns his own circus and has been the star performer but now must make the difficult decision to go out while he's at the top of his game.

In softened tints of browns and blues Debon recounts Cyr's life story in a way that almost suggests a Hugo-esque (as in Victor Hugo) portrait of a man with a single destiny. The problem is that his destiny seems very much set at an early age and the bumps along the way give no hint at anything more foreboding as some lean years working in a bar. It is a genteel portrait, one that well fits an American's impression of his northern neighbor, the story of a French Canadian who set many weight-lifting records, some of which are still on the books.

I was hipped to this by Fuse#8 and I think she does a much better job with the summary than I do, but I have say that in the end I felt the effort left me wanting more. More about the times Cyr was living in, the political and social climates, more about who he was and how he felt about his place in the world. I'm not asking that an otherwise normal life be given a false drama, or have extraneous outside influences added for effect. There is simple, and there is quiet, and this is a little too much of both. If those are the differences between American and Canadian tastes, so be it, but somehow I don't think so.
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