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Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, by Yvan Alagbé, translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith

New York Review Comics, 112 pages, $29.95

What it’s about: A landmark of French comics, this decades-spanning collection of terse, leery stories sketches the lives of immigrants torn between France and Africa. Yvan Alagbé is an artist of extraordinary empathy and moral clarity, alive to the struggles of people who quietly yearn for dignity or love in their precarious existences.

What you see here: In the title story, young Alain scams money from needy Mario, once a French-Algerian police lieutenant, who deludes Alain’s family of Beninese immigrants with the promise of legal papers. Alagbé’s daring, confrontational brushwork fluidly mixes sturdy figures, suggestive fragments and allusive symbols.

Read if you like: Gustave Flaubert’s exemplary tale The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller and the boldly patterned portraits of Malian photographer Seydou Keïta are both touchstones in the text. But I am also reminded of Claire Denis’s alternately rapturous and desperate films about the lives of black communities in Parisian banlieues, from No Fear, No Die to 35 Shots of Rum.

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