In Italian we have an idiomatic expression that says bagaglio di vita, meaning ’wealth of experience’, where by experience we imply all the background of a person, including both the positive things you learn and all the burdens you can’t get rid of. That expression, bagaglio di vita, would literally mean life luggage, just as if you could put all of your experiences in a suitcase. This metaphor is the key to get through Mercedes by Daniel Cuello.
Mercedes is the most powerful woman on earth, an awkward and cumbersome figure, a granitic anti-heroine soaked deep in cynicism. At the eve of a global scandal she is going to be the scapegoat of, Mercedes decides to escape, with all her assistants in tow.
She leaves with twelve suitcases, but she will be forced to drop them one by one at each stop of her road trip, as a symbolic path to freedom. Her metaphorical burdens and luggage – her bagaglio di vita – are all the themes that concern us closely nowadays: climate change, abuse, youth unemployment, political corruption, brain drain and the ongoing search for scapegoats.
Despite the abundance of themes and suggestions, the narrative style is pushed to the essential: readers themselves will have to fill in the blanks, getting answers and inferring what is missing.
As Mercedes says to a young boy in one of the most touching scenes of the book, ’the things that remain unsaid, those are the loudest’.
Daniel Cuello was born in Argentina, but he soon moved to Italy, and about seven nationalities flow in his blood. Self-taught cartoonist, he has been publishing short stories, illustrations and strips for years, collected in the volume Guardati dal beluga magico (BAO Publishing, 2018).
Arcadia Apartments (BAO Publishing, 2017) was his first graphic novel.