Elif Batuman writes:

A particularly striking case is that of David B. (né Pierre-François Beauchard), whose autobiographical L’Ascension du haut mal (1996-2003) is available in a single-volume English translation called Epileptic. The ‘epileptic’ is Pierre-François’s elder brother, Jean-Christophe, and the book tells the story of the Beauchard family’s quest for a cure for Jean-Christophe’s seizures. The children are dragged to hospitals, to Lourdes, to macrobiotic communes, to Swedenborgians and to witch doctors. Pierre-François acts out his part in the family’s battle against epilepsy by obsessively drawing battle scenes, covering page after page with the minuscule dismembered corpses of samurai, Mongol horsemen and Aztec warriors. Meanwhile, Jean-Christophe develops increasingly autistic tendencies, and an embarrassing mania for Hitler: ‘Where I’m an anonymous crowd of Mongols,’ David B. writes, ‘he’s a supreme leader./His dream is that of an eternal parade by an army that worships him./He draws himself a Nazi flag and posts it on the wall of his room.’

(LRB 10 April 2008)

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