Eternal Friendship

Anouck Durand

Translated by Elizabeth Zuba with an introduction by Eliot Weinberger

Albania and China? Comrades? Who knew? A timely book about dictatorships, propaganda and friendship. Imagine Art Spiegelman meets Chris Marker, told in gorgeous “tricolor” photography, a knock out!   

Richard McGuire, author of Here

 

A graphic poem, a photo novel, an archive-based comic book — Eternal Friendship is a rare juxtapositional mix of genre and media, such that history, the history of ideas, and the bodies that mediate both are captured with tone-perfect temporal lucidity.

Christian Hawkey, author of Ventrakl

 

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Winner of the French Voices Award for excellence in publishing and translation!

This exquisitely composed photo-novel by French artist-writer Anouck Durand—collaged from photographic archives, personal letters and propaganda magazines—tells a true story that begins in Albania during World War II, stops in China during the Cold War, and ends in Israel as Communism crumbles.

When the Nazis invaded Albania, young partisan Refik Veseli and his Muslim family hid Jewish photographer Mosha Mandil and his wife, while Mosha’s two small children posed as Refik’s siblings. Despite the dire circumstances, Mosha instilled in Refik a great passion for photography and a friendship was forged in the crucible of war. After liberation, the Mandils left for Israel, inviting Refik to join them, but he stayed behind to contribute to his new nation, not knowing that he would never see his dear friend again.
 
Artist-writer Durand begins the story decades later in 1970, when Refik, having risen in the ranks as a state photographer, is allowed to travel to China and attempts to mail Mosha a letter, free of the Albanian censors.
 
In a deft construction of the fictional, personal and historical, Durand imagines Refik’s voice and inhabits private thoughts that seem haunted by the specter of surveillance. With nuance and restraint, she weaves his story of enduring friendship with Mosha into another in which the blunt alteration of history and extraordinary acts of censorship take place on a grand scale, as two ostracized regimes—China and Albania—attempt and ultimately fail to embrace.
 
In Eternal Friendship, the obscured path is the most revelatory, images that seem to have one message have many, and photography—used at the behest of merciless state powers—becomes a tool for resistance, liberation and human connection.

 

The happy social-realist people of Enver Hoxja’s Albanian utopia, like other smiling citizens photographed in the Stalinist empire, look sincere in retrospect. For me, they are exuding nostalgia for a childhood inhabited by the official happiness of people caught in the long exposures of my mother’s photoshop. We lived in a similarly symbolic world, but now, after decades of war and irruptions of tribal bloodshed, I can weep for something so benign-looking. Anouck Durand has managed to create an ambiguity of her own in the very bosom of artifice, with words and photographs that reveal only now, in our shaky present, the dark side of the ordered delirium of an orwellian world.  —Andrei Codrescu, author of The Posthuman Dada Guide

 

ANOUCK DURAND creates polyphonic photo-novels and image-based narratives using a variety of found materials and archives, drawing on history, pop culture as well as fictional constructions. Her work has been exhibited and collected by a variety of institutions including Museum Nicéphore Niépce and the Kandinsky Library at Centre Georges Pompidou. Eternal Friendship (originally Amitié Éternelle) was exhibited at the Arles Photography Festival in 2014.