It seems that the entire world has joined France in the state of shock following the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Beyond the symbol, the horror, the implications, when my radio announced that mon Cabu was dead I just started crying. I was crying for someone I had never met, but had been in my life for as long as I could remember. So I went to my book shelves in my childhood room and cried some more as I was making a pile of his books.
Cabu was of course the satirical caricaturist you have been hearing about in the media since last week, but he was also an amazing cartoonist who wrote for kids and was a figure of my childhood. Every French person of my generation grew up with Dorothée, the star of kid shows in the 80’s and early 90’s. He used to draw live during her show Récré A2, and my original exposure to mon Cabu came from his drawing of Dorothée with a very long nose. Le Nez de Dorothée even became a comic book and a song that was a perfect candidate for earworms.
Later I became acquainted with his humoristic series Le Grand Duduche. Le Grand Duduche was a blond high schooler wearing tiny round glasses in love with the daughter of the principal of his very old school high school for boys. Cabu never really stopped writing this character first born in the 60’s as he made cameos in his later work like Le Beauf. Before I was able to read it, my dad once called his brother a grand Duduche and because of the similarity of his haircut and glasses, I thought for several years that my uncle was really THE Grand Duduche. My dad still laughs at me for it.
Cabu’s character of Le Beauf (which is originally an abbreviation of beau frère, brother in law) is a caricature of a middle class man with little culture, a narrow mind and a lot of opinions. Beauf is now an adjective of French slang often used to designate someone vulgar.
Cabu also had a great passion for jazz that he referred to as “music of freedom, the only music created in the twentieth century”. And his Cabu in Jazz is one of my favorite albums on the subject. Amstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, he loved all of them and his drawings are an amazing proof of that love.
They killed mon Cabu. And I cried.
Je suis Charlie.