The winner of this years’ Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize is Astrid Goldsmith’s A Funeral in Freiburg…
The Graphic Short Story Award is an open to all competition run by the Observer newspaper, Comica comic festival and publisher Jonathan Cape – 4 pages sent in and judged by an expert panel. The prize money is a nice little £1,000, but it’s the exposure by having your work published in the Observer and the potential connection to Jonathan Cape, who’ve got a history of using the competition as a talent finding exercise.
An animator living in Folkestone, Goldsmith’s winning strip concerns itself with the funeral of Goldsmith’s paternal grandmother in pre-pandemic Germany. Interviewed in the Observer, she had this to say:
The outrage had been percolating for a while, but I only came to write it after my first baby was born, while I was breastfeeding: I drew it all on one of those trays with arms that invalids use in bed.
A Funeral in Freiberg tells of the difficulties in arranging a Jewish funeral – the Rabbi’s in prison for embezzlement, the Jewish cemetery happens to be full, and the woman in charge of it all is putting obstacles in the way, up to and including refusing to believe that Goldschmidt’s grandmother was really Jewish.
The judging panel of Dan Franklin (publisher of Jonathan Cape’s graphic novel list), Suzanne Dean (creative director of Vintage), Paul Gravett (Comica festival), Rachel Cooke (The Observer), Samira Ahmed (journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row), and the acclaimed graphic novelist Alison Bechdel.
The panel describes Goldsmith’s A Funeral in Frieberg as:
a rich, funny, plangent story, (that) isn’t only beautifully drawn; its subject, though highly particular, also has a universality that speaks to the past two years, a period during which too many of us have had to organise funerals at a distance.
Goldsmith has plans to use the 4-page A Funeral in Freiberg as the basis for a longer graphic novel.
She had this to say about the subject of A Funeral in Freiberg- ‘It is weird, death is so raw and emotional, and yet you’re also greeted with this bureaucracy. If you’re lucky, the people helping you through will be great. But our experience really wasn’t; when we went back to Germany for the stone setting a year later, it was just as bad.’
This year, there were two runner-up strips – Tat Effby’s Cancer Sells! was described by the panel as ‘an uproarious satire on publishing’s obsession with illness memoirs (and reality stars),’ whilst A Wolfgang Crowe’s Andrew was described as a “mournful and disquieting story… of two loners that is clearly (and wonderfully) influenced by Daniel Clowes.”
Tat Effby’s Cancer Sells – read in full at the Observer here.
A Wolfgang Crowe’s Andrew – again, you can read it in full at the Observer here.