Home > 2010, 21st Century, BD, French Literature, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, LF Bollée & P. Nicloux, Translation Tragedy > Terra Australis by LF Bollée and Philippe Nicloux. A graphic novel about the settlement of a penal colony in Sydney

Terra Australis by LF Bollée and Philippe Nicloux. A graphic novel about the settlement of a penal colony in Sydney

October 26, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Terra Australis by LF Bollée & Philippe Nicloux (2013) Original French title: Terra Australis.

French Bande Dessinée* is a very lively art with a wide range of albums. Terra Australis relates the colonisation of Australia. LF Bollée wrote the scenario and Philippe Nicloux did the illustrations.

Terra Australis opens on a beautiful plate showing the nature in the Sydney area and the prologue which follows is from the Aborigines’ point of view. The voiceover is from a man who participates to the rite of passage into adulthood for young adolescents. For a while, there’s been a boat anchored in the bay. A ship full of white people with strange customs, people who disturb the peace and our voiceover hopes that they will soon leave forever. Of course, we know they’re here to stay.

After this prologue, Terra Australis is divided in three books, Distant Lands, The Journey and Bandaiyan.

In Distant Lands, we’re in Europe and we see different forces at work, the ones that slowly lead to the project of sending convicts to Botany Bay and found a new colony there. Botany Bay, near Sydney is where James Cook first landed in Australia in 1770.

We see how the penal system in England has reached a turning point: the prisons are full and the public executions do nothing to decrease the crime rate. The colonies in North America are lost, a new deportation plan has to be defined. Lord Sydney, Home Secretary in the Pitt government is in charge of this project. He knew Captain Arthur Philipp from previous missions and roped him into leading the First Fleet to Australia and become the first governor of the new colony.

The authors change from point of view and show us the convicts’ side and the hopelessness in their lives, how they went from small crimes to deportation to an unknown land.

The fleet leaves England on May 13th, 1787. The journey was very risky: tempests, lack of food, epidemies and scurvy are among the highest risks. It’s a mixed crowd of sailors, soldiers and male and female convicts. The journey is long enough for relationships to develop, for babies to be born on board. Arthur Philipp makes an inventory of the convicts’ skill and regrets that they don’t have more peasants, fishermen and other useful skilled workmen to start a town from the ground.

They will arrive in Botany Bay on January 17th, 1788. Arthur Philipp soon realises that there is not enough fresh water in Botany Bay and settles the penal colony a little further, in Port Jackson.

Bandaiyan depicts the first year of settlement in Port Jackson, the organisation of the colony and the first encounters with the Aborigines.

LF Bollée and P. Nicloux have managed to relate the political project behind the colonisation of Botany Bay and show what a dangerous adventure it was for all the participants. As mentioned before, the Aborigines’ point of view is considered, too.

Nicloux’s drawing are a marvel of details: clothes, cities, faces, landscapes, with a few images we understand who the characters are, what they go through and where they are. The whole book is in black and white and it suits the story. The authors have a balanced vision of the colonisation of Australia. The convicts are true to life: poor people, uneducated, sometimes violent and vulgar. They do not look like William Thornhill from The Secret River by Kate Grenville. They are more like the convict characters in For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke.

They also show the disagreement between the officers and the different points of view towards convict and Aborigines. Some believe that force is the only thing that works while Arthur Philipp is more open to discussion and more human.

It is a great read, a beautiful book and I hope it will be published in Australia soon. I have only one slight criticism: I knew about Arthur Philip, Lord Sydney, James Cook and the foundation of Australia. For readers without this previous knowledge, it would have been useful to have a quick biography of the main historical protagonists.

Terra Doloris is the sequel to Terra Australis and I have it already.


Bande Dessinée or BD: a French expression with no direct equivalent in English. It covers comics and graphic novels.

  1. October 26, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    I get the impression too that Arthur Philip was more human. I’m interested that the authors didn’t mention La Perouse arriving while the First Fleet was still in Botany Bay.

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    • October 26, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      They did mention it. I just skipped that part in my billet.
      I think that Lisa mentioned that Terra Australis is available at the Melbourne library.

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      • October 31, 2018 at 2:48 am

        Australians often/sometimes comment that we were nearly French, though I suppose if La Perouse had claimed the east coast for France, the English might have got all military about it – the Canada scenario.

        Thanks for taking the effort to read my posts which you had missed. At the moment I’m working 5am to 10pm for four days, knocking out one or two posts, then trying to catch up on the backlog in my blog reading in the other three.

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        • November 1, 2018 at 12:07 pm

          La Pérouse was not a military man and King Louis XVI was not a warrior either…
          The English would have gone military about it, that’s for sure. In the BD, Philipp avoid meeting with La Pérouse.
          And in the end, I’m not sure Australia would have remained French for long : we were on the verge of the Revolution and look what Napoléon did with the colonies in America.

          About your posts: I enjoy reading them and like you, my work schedule can be hectic. I try to catch up but I don’t have as much time as I’d like to.

          Like

  1. January 3, 2019 at 6:32 pm

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