Sempé: A Short History of Social Mobility

A Short History of Social Mobility in five small frames – from a collection of drawings and pastels that first appeared in the edition “Nothing is easy” (Rien n’est simple) by Jean-Jacques Sempé, published a half century ago in 1962.  And even back then the message was howlingly clear. Amazing to think of how little it is understood two generations later in most cities around the world, rich and poor, even though the indisputable proof is right before our eyes. If only we choose to look. (From World Streets Archives)

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We need to make use of every neuron and every synapse in our brains, every metaphor, every good tool we can lay our hands on, in order to reverse the long uphill slog to sustainability and social justice. (Thanks to FutureCycles Blog for helping us find these long misplaced but perfectly current images. ISBN-13: 978-0714844831))

About the artist:

Jean-Jacques Sempé was expelled from school as a young man, and then failed to pass exams for the post office, a bank and the railroad. He then found work selling tooth powder as a door-to-door salesman and also worked delivering wine by bicycle in the Gironde. After lying about his age, he joined the army in 1950, since it was “the only place that would give me a job and a bed,” he subsequently explained, and would occasionally get into trouble for drawing while he was supposed to be keeping watch during guard duty.[After being discharged from the army, he moved to Paris and began working with René Goscinny. His “mute” watercolors or single image sketches, where the characters speak in pictures or not at all (but somehow manage to convey a rich story) slowly gained international attention. He won his first award in 1952 which is given to encourage young amateur artists to turn professional. Sempé has spent most of his life in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. (Not a bad choice I would say.) (Source: Wikipedia.)

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About the editor:

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Britton is an American political scientist and sustainability activist who has lived and worked in Paris since 1969. Professor of Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion (Paris), he is also MD of EcoPlan Association, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government and business on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. Founding editor of World Streets, his latest book, "BETTER CHOICES: Bringing Sustainable Transport to Your City" focuses on the subject of environment, equity, economy and efficiency in city transport and public space, and helping governments to ask the right questions. A pre-publication edition of Better Choices is currently undergoing an international peer review during Sept.- Oct. 2017, with the goal of publication in English and Chinese editions by end-year. If you wish to participate drop a line to BetterChoices@ecoplan.org .

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2 thoughts on “Sempé: A Short History of Social Mobility

  1. What a delight to see this carton strip celebrated by someone else. I had those pages printed out and hung on my wall when I worked at the UK’s cyclists charity CTC from a copy of “Rien n’est Simple” that I was given at school.

    So prescient for 1962.

    Reply

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