Martha Verschaffel (lay-out: Stijn Dams)
Bries vzw
21 x 26,5 cm / 240 p
Original images: graphite on Zerkall etching paper/Book: Munken pure rough 120 gr (interior), yarn-stitched, hard cover with paper-covered binding, coloured headband
Offset printed in two Pantone colours
Partly by hand, partly industrial

Passages is a graphic novel about time and making choices.


Passages is a visual story by Martha Verschaffel that is about the experience of time. How does someone experience time and in which situations is this experienced differently? Inertia takes central stage and also plays with the reader’s own perception of time. Four storylines are seemingly interwoven. They alternate, refer to each other and suggest connections. The framing of each storyline is different and plays an important role in both form and content.

The jury on Passages:

“This book exudes timelessness and serenity. It’s set against the speed of current imagery. A beautiful whole, where the isolation and loneliness radiate from the frames.”

What does this award mean to you?

Martha Verschaffel: I like the fact that my book cannot be obviously classified in a category. It explores the boundaries of the comic or cartoon story. You can read it as a story, but just as easily see it as a film on paper. Or open the book randomly on a page and enjoy every autonomous image in itself, separate from a story. For me, this award acknowledges that the book is understood and valued, perhaps also because it is not always easy to place or grasp. I ended up working on Passages for over five years, and automatically the book becomes part of your life (and maybe vice versa). It also gives me confirmation that once the book is published and takes on a life of its own, it will endure.

How did the idea for this project come about?

Martha Verschaffel: At the heart of this book was the idea of creating a story about time perception, and of letting the reader’s experience play a role. The focus here is on the slowness of the sequence, unravelling every detail of every action. Through the framing of the pages, the alternation of four storylines that flow into each other and the stillness in the images themselves, I try to make this perception of time play a role on various levels. I also wanted to play with the expectation of a reader who wants to link these four storylines together. Throughout the book it is suggested that the stories are not entirely unrelated after all, but as a reader you can go as far as you like in connecting the stories and in digging out those clues.

Do you have any further plans for this project?

Martha Verschaffel: Every book I create and every story I tell is in some way connected to dreams. These can be literal interpretations, but even more I try to capture the feeling and logic (or non-logic) of it. I’ve been keeping track of my own dreams for fifteen years. In Passages, the storylines work together in the same way that the narrative and structure of dreams work (or can work). With little references, recurring elements that offer suggestions more than clear answers. I am not planning a specific sequel to Passages, but for a subsequent book I would again like to search out how I can approach this subject from a completely new angle.