“Drawing the Reader into Surrealism": "Interpicturality As A Biographical Device in Magritte: This is Not a Biography by Vincent Zabus & Thomas Campi”

Marjolein van Tooren

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperAcademic


At first sight, the graphic non-biography Magritte: Ceci n’est pas une biographie (2016) seems to tell us a simple, although strange story. An ordinary little man, Charles Singulier, by accident puts on Magritte’s famous bowler hat and cannot take it off any more. From then on, his comfortable everyday life is marked by strange incidents (hallucinations? dreams? fantasies?) and the only way for him to escape and get rid of the hat is to unriddle the mysteries of surrealist art. In his inquiry, the protagonist is accompanied by a Magritte specialist – a beautiful young woman – and a rather ridiculous ‘official biographer’. When finally, Charles can take off the hat, he does not go back to his average life, but joins the young woman in a painting where they probably will live happily ever after.
At a less superficial level, the non-biography gives a new answer to the old question whether it is possible to explain the works of a painter who was always reluctant to talk about himself and to interpret his paintings. In my paper, I will analyse the events and the way they are presented by the multiple narrators, focalisors and mises en abyme. This will lead me to argue that interpicturality is the key word to the understanding of this graphic non-biography. All the incidents are transpositions of well-known Magritte paintings and to seize the message delivered by them, not only the protagonist, but also the reader has to let himself been drawn into the surrealist universe. Only then, the text will reveal the secrets of Magritte’s life and work, in spite of the title’s negation of genre.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventDrawing Yourself In and Out of It: The 2nd International Amsterdam Comics Conference - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 15 Nov 201817 Nov 2018


ConferenceDrawing Yourself In and Out of It


Dive into the research topics of '“Drawing the Reader into Surrealism": "Interpicturality As A Biographical Device in Magritte: This is Not a Biography by Vincent Zabus & Thomas Campi”'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this