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FEATURED IN THE MARGINALIAN BY MARIA POPOVA (FORMERLY BRAIN PICKINGS) • A GRAPHICS BEAT MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK
A debut picture book for adults about a bear that elicits immediate, deep emotional recognition.
"A tender reminder that no one can save anyone, not even with love; that we only ever save ourselves when we are ready: but love is what readies us to be our own savior."
—Maria Popova, The Marginalian
Bear, Staffan Gnosspelius’s debut book, is a gorgeous visual meditation on depression. In this deeply affecting, wordless picture book for adults, a bear is maddeningly afflicted with a cone that covers his head and that he is unable to take off. He furiously stomps and yells and tears at the cone, he implores the skies and fate for relief, he is drawn to dark and wild and scary places. The depths of his sadness feel like a defeat. It’s a battle he wages until he’s mentally and physically exhausted.
Then, one day, Bear hears notes of music, the humming of a friendly hare. The hare hovers nearby, concerned, sometimes driven away by Bear’s frustration and anger, more often staying close and gently offering support. The author began drawing a bear with a cone on his head as a way to make sense of how a person close to him was suffering from mental illness. The resulting book is both an emotional gut punch and a warm embrace, recognizable immediately to anyone who has ever suffered or loved someone who has suffered in similar dark places. In other words, all of us.
About the Author
STAFFAN GNOSSPELIUS was born in Sweden and studied visual communications at Edinburgh College of Art and at Chelsea College of Art and Design in the U.K. Since 2002 he has lived in London where he is a printmaker, illustrator, and artist. Staffan is the author of the children’s book, Julia and the Triple C, which will also debut in the Fall of 2022.
"An excellent example of silent narrative conveying feelings of entrapment and resistance, feelings that are not easily described⏤or even understood⏤but still necessary to witness, to resolve." ⏤Shaun Tan
"What better way to convey the feeling of the wordless country of depression and the adjacent state where the beloveds of the sufferers suffer alongside than through spectral prints and drawings that manage to be both terrifying and delightful? With Bear, Staffan Gnosspelius has captured the abyss—tentacled, thorned, rife with traps, drained of color, light, and language—and the respite and grace offered by love. This is a deeply tender and wondrous book." —Maud Casey, author of The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions and City of Incurable Women
"Those of us who have lived with depression know the way it blindfolds us to beauty, the way it muffles the song of life, until we are left in the solitary confinement of our own somber ruminations, all the world a blank. It might feel like the visitation of some monster, but it is not something that happens upon us from the outside — it is our own undulating neurochemistry, it is the parts of ourselves we have not yet befriended, integrated, understood. 'The gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain,' William Styron wrote in his timeless account of depression. The pain can feel interminable. It is a lifeline to remember that it is not — that there is an other side, that the blindfold and the muffler can come off just like they came on. . . . That is what Swedish-born, London-based printmaker and graphic artist Staffan Gnosspelius explores with great subtlety and soulfulness in Bear — a wordless picture-book for grownups about life with and liberation from depression. . . . [A] tender reminder that no one can save anyone, not even with love; that we only ever save ourselves when we are ready: but love is what readies us to be our own savior."
—Maria Popova, The Marginalian
"Though this debut adult picture book contains no words, its gritty, detailed sketches communicate the experience of mental illness — and ways we can lean on one another despite it — in acute detail."
—New York Times Book Review
"A dark and beautifully tender allegory, elegantly and emotionally drawn in Staffan's unique style. His work will transport you to another world." —Will Sharpe, director, writer, actor most recently in White Lotus
"Bear is a beautiful book. Staffan Gnosspelius has clearly felt each joyous peak and desperate valley alongside his characters and their emotional world is brought to life in every line." —Alexis Deacon, author of Beegu, a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books
"The effect of this book, on me, has been like a Rorschach test, a way to look afresh and engage my own emotional reactions toward the fact of depression. Gnosspelius draws, then etches, then prints with such craft and empathic artistry that it was impossible for me to look away. . . . What I see in this book is great bravery and tenacity. And tenderness. Something we need today. It’s there in bear.
I think you will see it." —Nicole d'Entremont, Today's American Catholic
"Bear is a moving portrait of the relationships born out of mental illness and love. It’s a dark and beautiful journey, exquisitely executed by an artist and storyteller at the height of his power." —Evie Wyld, author of The Bass Rock, winner of the Stella Prize
"This slim and sweet yet eerie wordless fable by Swedish artist and printmaker Gnosspelius begins with the funny-sad image of an enormous bear with its head stuck in a cone. A lanky rabbit tries to help, undaunted by the bear’s anger and frustration, and the two animals become wary companions. Unable to speak, they connect through music, and in time the question arises of what will happen to their unlikely friendship if the bear ever gets out of his predicament. The lushly illustrated wilderness they explore appears sometimes as a realistic landscape of woods, fields, and gorges, and sometimes as a nightmare in which spikes protrude from the ground, giants lurk in the trees, and tentacles rise from the depths to snare passersby—a visual expression of the bear’s confusion and fear. In one lovely moment, a swarm of menacing tentacles transforms into a sun-dappled grove. Gnosspelius’s delicate black-and-white art, so sure with light and shadow, imbues the gloomiest encounters with natural beauty. As the bear and rabbit make their way toward a silent understanding, they pass through the darkness, and slowly pages of soft, bright watercolors occasionally appear and suggest dawning relief. As an allegory about depression, connection, and friendship, this work will strike a chord with receptive readers. Each page is a piece of art worth poring over." —Publishers Weekly