Thursday, September 5, 2013

Les Carnets de Rastapopoulos #8

By Robert Gauvin
Les Carnets de Rastopopoulos
2-7 Larch Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1R 6W4

This is one of the neatest zines I've seen in a while. It's about Gauvin's attempts to get a penpal in the early 1980s. At first he is content to exchange letters with people from penpal organizations, but soon he has a new goal in mind: a penpal "on the other side of the Iron Curtain". In the early '80s this must have seemed super exotic, and also considerably more difficult than finding someone in Denmark to trade letters with.

Gauvin decides to write to the Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian embassies and, much to my surprise, actually gets a response! He writes to some youth organizations in those countries and after several months he finally gets a response! Of course it's in Serbian which isn't too helpful to someone who lives in small town New Brunswick.

And then the next day there are 14 more letters, then 12, then 16... In total Gauvin received about 250 letters (mostly in Serbian), which included photos, Yugoslav dollars, lipstick prints, and cut outs of the original article printed in TV Novosti magazine that said he wanted a penpal.
"There was so much mail suddenly flowing from Yugoslavia to the small obscure rural Atlantic Canadian post office of Bouctouche people along the postal supply chain took notice. This one time a letter arrive in a magnificent colour poster elaborately folded to act as an envelope. There was hardly any trade of my address on the surface. Just "Try Bouctouche" scribbled on it by a postal employee along the postal supply chain. Guessing it belonged with the hordes of correspondance heading to that previously unknown destination point."
Soon after the letters from Yugoslavia begin to dry up, a letter from Czechoslovakia arrives. At first Gauvin is afraid that he'll get hundreds more letters in a language he can't understand, but this time the majority of the letters arrived in French and English. This led to a new problem, how to choose which letters from the hundreds received that should receive replies.

This zine reminded me of getting a penpal letter in a class soon after I moved to Canada. I feel bad because I didn't reply to it because it was from some "boring" girl (I was 8!). I'm much better at responding to mail nowadays.

I thought this zine was cute and funny and I'm looking forward to reading more issues. Plus it has some neat maps in the middle that show all the countries in which Gauvin has had penpals. There are a lot of them!

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