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French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé remembered in quotes

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French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé remembered in quotes
French illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé remembered in quotes   -   Copyright  MARTIN BUREAU/AFP or licensors
By David Mouriquand

French cartoonist Jean-Jacques Sempé, who illustrated the much-loved 'Little Nicolas' series of French children's books, has died aged 89.

A national treasure in France and one of the most celebrated cartoonists in America due to his many covers for The New Yorker, Sempé found a refuge in his drawings. They were a way of escaping the darker realities of life and the traumas of a difficult childhood, from growing up in a violent foster home to living with his abusive mother and stepfather.

"The Nicolas stories were a way to revisit the misery I endured while growing up while making sure everything came out just fine," Sempé said in 2018.

He often said in interviews that he regretted having worked so much but continued to fantasise through the characters he drew of a happier childhood he never had.

Sempé’s timeless drawings and often wordless storytelling movingly encapsulated his unique brand of droll and at times achingly lovely humour, which tiptoed between melancholia and lightness of being.

He leaves behind a body of work depicts disarmingly honest lovers, mischievous schoolboy antics, autmnal landscapes, and the deceptively profound musings of ordinary folk that always manage to find the poetry in the everyday.

Galerie Martine Gossieaux
Le jardin du LuxembourgGalerie Martine Gossieaux

Here is a selection of Jean-Jacques Sempé’s most impactful quotes.

L'école me sortait du carcan familial. C'était un havre de paix, un refuge.

"School took me out of the confines of my family. It was a safe haven, a refuge."

Les papas, c'est toujours pareil, ils font les guignols, et, si on ne fait pas attention, ils cassent les vélos et ils se font mal.

"Dads are always the same, they act like clowns, and if you're not careful, they break bikes and hurt themselves." (From 'Le Petit Nicolas', 1960)

IMAV editions Goscinny Sempe
Biblioteque de SempeIMAV editions Goscinny Sempe
Il m'a fallu une grande force dans la vie pour dire "Peut-être" quand je pensais "Non", "Nous verrons" quand je pensais "Oui" et "A bientôt" quand je partais pour de bon.

"It took a lot of strength in life to say 'Maybe' when I thought 'No', 'We'll see' when I thought 'Yes' and 'See you soon' when I was leaving for good."

“Les gens ne sont pas bons, mais la bonté existe et il y a des gens qui l'attrapent.”

"People are not good, but goodness exists and there are people who catch it."

Gallerie Martine Gossieaux
Cycliste de SempeGallerie Martine Gossieaux
En amour, ce qu'on aime c'est sa propre image flatteuse que l'autre vous renvoie de vous-même.

"In love, what you love is your own flattering image that the other person reflects back at you."

Nous ne sommes que de braves petits êtres en quête d’autre chose, mais qu’on ne saura jamais quoi. Et quand on le saura, ce sera grave.

"We're just good little people looking for something else, but we'll never know what. And when we do know, it will be serious."

Video editor • Theo Farrant