Living without hair focus of new award-winning graphic novel

Tereza Drahoňovská, photo: archive of Tereza Drahoňovská

The Czech Republic’s annual Muriel Award for best comic book of the year was given to the graphic novel Bez vlasů or Without Hair. The autobiographical novel is a joint endeavour by writer Tereza Drahoňovská and Štěpánka Jislová and describes the struggles of living with alopecia, an autoimmune disease causing hair loss.

At the age of 30, writer Tereza Drahoňovská was diagnosed with alopecia and within just a few months she lost all her hair. The writer, who today prefers to walk around without a wig, says it took her some time to be able to talk about her problem openly.

“It took me about a year to pluck up the courage and talk about my experience. And then I realised I wanted to share it publicly, with people going through the same problems.

“The most difficult thing was to keep one’s distance, to find a way how to talk about it and make it enjoyable for readers. To make them realize that while it is mentally demanding, you also experience funny moments and your life simply goes on.”

'Bez vlasů',  photo: Paseka publishing

Pavel Kořínek, head of the Czech Academy of Comics, says the authors have created an interesting and really unique piece of work and a very unique graphic novel in the Czech context:

“We don’t have that many autobiographical works per se. Czech comics tends to be more fictitious, more focused towards narrating various historic adventure stories.

“But I think it would be too simplistic to say it won just because of being autobiographic. It is really an interesting and moving book which tells a story that’s easy to understand and interesting for a lot of people. It is really a beautiful piece of graphic narrative.”

Mr. Kořínek says Without Hair reflects the growing interest among Czech comic authors in autobiographical or semi-autobiographical stories.

'Bez vlasů',  photo: Paseka publishing

“That is something that happened all around the world in the 1990s and 2000s, and now we are finally seeing the first glimpses of this wave coming to the Czech Republic.”

Another work reflecting this trend is Jiří Franta’s graphic novel SINGL, which won the Muriel Award for best illustration. It tells a story set in the present day, describing the life of a single in the present-day Czech Republic.

Pavel Kořínek also highlights the graphic novel This One Summer by Mario and Jillian Tamaki, which won the award for the best translation.

“It’s a beautiful and touching graphic novel about growing up, about a summer in which ostensibly nothing, yet deep down everything happens.

“But obviously all the Muriel Award winners deserve all the attention they can get. There is a beautiful set of short comics which were nominated this year, several of them by Kateřina Čupová, who won the short story award.

“She was also nominated for her comic book adaptation of Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. So Czech comics is really in great shape these days!”