Voices in the Dark
By Ulli Lust, based on a novel by Marcel Beyer, translated by John Brownjohn, translation adapted by Nika Knight, New York Review Comics, 368 pages, $39.95
Ulli Lust's first major book weighed in at nearly 500 pages, fictionalizing the Austrian cartoonist's travels throughout Europe. Her follow-up may be slimmer, but it's also more ambitious, with Lust adding washes of colour to her palette and taking on the final days of the Third Reich as her subject matter. Adapting Marcel Beyer's 1997 novel The Karnau Tapes, Lust seems most at ease with the parts of the story narrated by Helga, Joseph Goebbels's daughter, whose sheltered life gradually crumbles. Here the cartooning is direct and intuitive, but the passages narrated by young Hermann Karnau look rather more strained, their verbose captions merely preserving Beyer's prose without transforming it. A Nazi audio engineer with a penchant for pseudoscience, Karnau's passion is sound – in nasty, bravura sequences, he records the groans of dying soldiers and the shrieks of tortured camp inmates, as well as the elder Goebbels's broadcasts. Karnau's deafness to the suffering around him is unforgivable; Helga's gradual awakening to her society's rot is distressing and tragic.