Rutu Modan's "The Property"

Resource Kit by
Tahneer Oksman

Module Content

Introduction

Introduction

Rutu Modan is one of Israel’s most well-known graphic novelists. Born in 1966 and trained at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Modan was co-founder in 1995 of Actus Tragicus, a comics studio and publishing group consisting of five renowned Israeli comics artists. Modan has published three book-length fictional works in English with the famous Montreal-based comics publishing company, Drawn & Quarterly. These graphic novels about the everyday lives of Israeli characters include Exit Wounds (2007), Jamilti and Other Stories (2008), and The Property (2013). She has also published shorter non-fiction works, including memoir and comics journalism, in publications such as The New York Times and Words Without Borders. Her whimsical and comedic children’s books include Maya Makes a Mess (Toon Books, 2012) and Eddie Spaghetti (Fantagraphics, 2019). 

The Property is the story of a grandmother, Regina Segal, born in Poland and now living in Israel, and her Israeli-born granddaughter, Mica. When the story opens in Ben-Gurion airport in the early 2000s, the two are preparing to get on a plane together, presumably to “take back” a property that Regina’s Jewish family owned in Poland before she was driven to flee to Israel as a young woman. The story takes place mainly in Warsaw over the course of a week in which family secrets are exposed and the grandmother/granddaughter pair experience firsthand some of the ways that the past—including the traumatic history of Jews in Poland before and during World War II, as well as Regina’s early life in Warsaw—continues to shape their present lives. Modan’s drawing style can best be described as ligne claire, or “clean line,” a style made famous by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Her characters are elegantly rendered, her page structures are geometrically arranged, and her artwork is bright and full of lively colors.

This resource kit includes activities and materials to help contextualize The Property and explore some of its key themes, including reparations and restitutions, the complicated nature of commemoration and memorialization, and intergenerational family relationships.

Cover image: Second panel from page 48 of The Property by Rutu Modan, trans. Jessica Cohen (Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2013).