Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Clearly, Catholicism was not a good means of dealing with my fear of dying."
At which point, like water from a whale's blow hole, a mouth full of tea gushed through my nose.
Should you be in any doubt at all about Catholicism's fixation upon all things infernal, Müller will make it perfectly clear - with her multiple, magnificent, open-wounded, blood-streaming, fire-and-brimstone pastiche tableaux - precisely why The Organised Religion of Ultimate Suffering is the least likely of all to allay her fears of death and indeed what is claimed to lie thereafter.
They're no more gruesome than the originals.
However, what made me howl with laughter - and this a screamingly funny book in places - was how Buddhism and yoga managed to fit that moribund bill as well.
The Buddhist practice of Sokushinbutsu, or self-mummification, makes Christian monks' masochistic self-flagellation look like a mild form of exfoliation. It involves three phases of a thousand days each, and an increasingly austere diet plan which begins with nuts and seeds only, then descends into Urushi tea from a tree whose juice is usually used for varnish. This induces vomiting, perspiration and excessive urination (with no extra-glossy coat to show for it) and - oh dear - it all grows so much morbidly worse. You'll never look at the lotus position in quite the same way. Indeed, should you decide to practise Sokushinbutsu, you'll never look at anything at all, ever again.
"Reportedly, Yoga has many benefits," the chapter begins benignly enough, although that Buddha's a bit boss-eyed! "It helps me to relax," she continues, crammed into a train carriage you can almost smell. "Yoga gives me the feeling of being taller..." she reports, straddled over an autobahn like a deutsch dominatrix version of 'The Attack Of The 50ft Woman' "... and I don't know how I was able to lead a life without abdominal muscles before."
Shame they don't come covered with a layer of skin. Apparently yoga sessions culminate in the corpse pose, which certainly leaves you with something to meditate upon.
If the graphic novel's general gist hasn't struck you yet, let me elucidate: nine semi-satirical, autobiographical essays in which Eva dwells on death. Unexpectedly, one is narrated by herself as a pensioner (she isn't), another from her younger brother's point of view. Their parents are violent, squabbling nightmares.
"Stop eating," nags her mother (quite quietly for her). "You're getting fatter and fatter."
Müller declines to sign-post this, but she's actually slicing a cucumber.
It's easy to see why Eva grew up with an obsessive fear of death. Even though Catholicism got its insidiously grim grip on her (through her grandparents; her grandmother collected obituaries, her granddad attended every funeral on offer, regardless of whether he was acquainted with the deceased), this was the era of appalling African famine, broadcast internationally, and Eva began musing on a worldwide food shortage which might extend to Germany. Oh, and her Aunt contracted polio at Eva's early age and do you remember that grimmest of grim things which we called the Iron Lung AKA Steel Coffin? It instilled in her the certain knowledge that children can die. She stopped sleeping, so they took her to a doctor.
"Well, young lady, tell me, what's going on? Why don't you want to fall asleep at night? Are you afraid of monsters?"
"No! I'm afraid I won't wake up again."
Which is inarguably more rational.
Eva soon found an expanded wealth of things to fret about, then there's this:
"As a child, I was very sure I was going to Hell."
The pre-teen holds her hand out to the horn-ed one:
"Last week I took a dead mouse out of a mouse-trap and put it into grandpa's hat...
"I smashed a cellar window with a football...
"I secretly took sweets from Mama's hiding place without asking her. I gave the cat Papa's beer. I rode my bike much further than I'm allowed. I bought four cigarettes with my lunch money and smoked them behind the church."
Satan genially reaches out to shake Eva's hand. He's very smart in his Sunday best!
"Hello, nice to meet you. As you know, these are all sins. Please follow me."
Little details, like his tie matching the red of his hands, hair, face and tail, made me smile.
Same goes for the Terminator eyes of the German Chancellor boring bright red out of his campaign poster preaching "Liberty, Prosperity, Security".
I learned words like 'Angslust' for when fear becomes exciting. This explains Alton Towers.
But I'm not even going to talk about the teeth episode.