by Rutu Modan
Drawn & Quarterly, 232 pp., $24.95
Carrot or knife? Anti-Semite or Jewish grandmother? Graveyard or lovers’ lane? Rutu Modan’s new graphic novel, The Property, is a tale of seemingly irreconcilable oppositions. As in her first graphic novel, Exit Wounds, Modan’s theme is the uneasy coexistence of love and death.
At first, the story seems simple: A grandmother, Regina, and her adult granddaughter, Mica, travel from Israel to Poland to reclaim a family apartment. The book’s structure seems to echo this apparent simplicity, with each of the seven chapters covering one day of the trip. However, Regina’s motives in returning to Poland are far more complex than she has led Mica to believe.
One of the joys of this novel is the gradual and open-ended revelation of character. When we first meet Regina, she is insisting—to Mica’s embarrassment—that she be allowed to take a giant water bottle past a security checkpoint at the airport. She continues far beyond the point by which most people would have given up—insisting on questionable “rights” (to drink her water, to block the line), questioning airport regulations (“Were they handed down to Moses at Mount Sinai?”), offering the security guard a sip, and playing the trump card of guilt: “I’m an old woman! Do you want me to get dehydrated?”