"La Nueve", the 9th company of the Leclerc division, regrouped the Spanish republicans who after having fled Franco's Spain joined the ranks of the Free France. They were among the first to enter Paris on August 24 1944. It is this original and epic story that the Spanish screenwriter and designer Paco Roca intends to tell us through his graphic novel.
Following their defeat by Franco's troops in 1939, thousands of Spanish Republicans were forced into exile. Some of them find themselves interned in French work camps in North Africa, but the Allied landing in the Maghreb opens up a new horizon for them: freed, they are integrated into De Gaulle's army, within the famous 2nd DB of General Leclerc. There, they form a company, the ninth, the “Nueve”. These men take an active part in the Liberation of France and Paris, but paradoxically for them this fight against totalitarianism stops in the Pyrenees ... Those who liberated France cannot liberate their own homeland ...
This comic strip translated from Spanish tackles a relatively unknown theme, the Spanish republicans within the FFL, in a more well-known context: that of the liberation of France in 1944. Moreover, the term graphic novel would surely be more suitable. to designate this work in terms of its volume: 314 pages! An element to be taken into account, because it allows the screenwriter to take the time to tell, which would not have been possible with a more traditional comic book format in about fifty pages.
The story, divided into chapters, is organized around an auto fiction and a flashback game. In black and white the contemporary scenes where the young Paco, who writes a story about the Spanish emigrants, questions Miguel, a veteran of the Nueve, about his experience. In color, Miguel's memories ... Exile, work camps, participation in World War II ...
The drawing, although not very detailed, is realistic. It allows a real immersion, both in the old apartment full of memories of Miguel as in the fights or the jubilation of the liberation of Paris. With a welcome didactic sense, Paco Roca has been able to integrate several maps into his boards which make it possible to understand the progress of operations and at different scales (from the map of Europe to the streets of Paris).
The only downside that we could do with this graphic novel is the absence of any historical record. Perhaps this one would have been judicious, if only in a few pages a summary of the operations of this company, illustrated with photographs of times.
In the end, we have here a very beautiful graphic novel which will delight lovers of contemporary history, but also certainly all French people of Spanish origin who will be happy to (re) discover the fate of these men who fought for France. . A graphic novel focused on the transmission of memory at a time when we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the liberation of Paris.
Screenplay & Drawings: Paco Roca