I’ve admired the work of Reinhard Kleist since a colleague first showed me an article on the new wave of German comic creators in a German newspaper article years back – he was still working on his remarkable Johnny Cash graphic biography at that time, which was then translated and published in English by SelfMadeHero (making my best of the year list at the time). Since then SMH have continued to translate and publish Reinhard’s work, with the powerful Castro, and most recently the engrossing The Boxer, the tale of Harry Haft, a Polish Jew who survived the Nazi death camps due to his boxing skills. I also had the pleasure of talking to Reinhard at the Edinburgh International Book Festival about The Boxer (see here for a chat I posted with him afterwards) and it’s fair to say I am always keen to read whatever subject he has turned his hand to next.
In this case he has An Olympic Dream, the Story of Samia Yusuf Omar, competing at the 2008 Olympic Games in Bejing. In the event Samia, in her short leggings and baggy t-shirt would be outrun by all of the leaner, faster, fitter athletes on the track. But she still stayed the course and completed it. And the story of how this poor Somali woman reached the level of the Olympic Games is what Reinhard explores here; I know from experience he’s a past master at taking the emotional, human core of these biographies, and expressing it in a way that absolutely engages the reader, and I’m eager to see this new book. In an era when so much of our large sporting events are so tarnished with allegations of doping, fixing, of the level of monies exchanged just to be allowed to host them, I suspect Reinhard’s telling of Samia’s story may remind us of what the Olympics are actually meant to embody, the dream of striving to be the best you can, that pride of human accomplishment, pushing beyond your normal boundaries. An Olympic Dream is published in mid-April by SelfMadeHero, but here are a few pages as a little taster (click the pics for the larger versions):