Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

Artist(s): Oscar Wilde, Tom Bouden.

One of Wilde’s best known works, this comedy of manners has here been rewritten by Tom Bouden for an all-male cast and set in the present days.

The four lovers

It took me a few pages to get into The Importance of Being Earnest1. At first, the nineteenth-century dialog sounded odd, but I soon began to enjoy characters speaking with such clever abandon. In fact, it feels like one’s reading something happening in a parallel universe, where a man can declare his flame to a boy and the only thing preventing them from enjoying wedded bliss is his first name, which of course has to be Ernest.

Another characteristic of this adaptation is the high panel per page ratio used by Bouden to accommodate the text of the play, but it all flows well. Bouden has obviously tried to minimize the “talking heads” panels, changing the scenery often, giving a lot of body language to the characters. In fact, he faced the same problems film adaptations of plays often face. No car pursuit, no explosion, no dead bodies… how do you grab the reader? Well, by giving the story and the dialogs enough room to breathe. And Bouden did that beautifully.

Bouden’s main success in this delightful work is the way he manages to put Wilde’s words in the mouths of contemporary people, without making them sound ridiculous or extremely snobbish. The effect is really refreshing, as if modern lovers – especially two men – could court each other with witticisms and aphorisms. The relationships between the characters of Wilde’s play are well preserved, although the parts of the ingénues are given to boys who seem more wordly than they appear at first sight. The men do not come off as predators, but rather as being truly, madly, deeply in love. One does not doubt for a moment that love will prevail, all that remains it to see how. And the wedding by which this story ends - a wedding between a man and a boy - seems perfectly obvious. We have to thank Tom Bouden for allowing us a glimpse of this other world, a world far gentler than the one we live in.

  1. This 80-page, large-sized graphic novel was published in 2000 by MännerschwarmSkript Verlag. If you order from Europe, write to the publisher. You can also find the book at Amazon.

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