The Diary of Lev Afor is the third graphic novel in the Lev Afor trilogy by the Israeli couple Adi Kaplan and Shahar Leon Carmel. Lev Afor (i.e. “Grey Heart”) is a cat who lives with her biological parents, who happen to be a young human couple, in an average apartment on the south side of Tel Aviv — where the artists themselves reside with their pet cat. Following up on the tall tale of the kitty’s surreal birth in Lev Afor (2010), The Parents of Lev Afor (2006) told the story of her childhood marked by the financial woes of her penurious parents. In The Diary of Lev Afor, published by Edition Patrick Frey, the now 16-year-old protagonist touchingly recounts her coming of age in a series of immersive double-page drawings, executed in oil crayon and graphite pencil, traversed by laconic lines of text. Through their teen feline heroine, Kaplan and Carmel reflect on ambivalences, tensions, media images and teen culture in the Middle East. The artist duo recurrently take on pseudo-identities themselves in their picture stories, succinctly or portentously playing out the trials and tribulations that make up the day-to-day life of a couple.
It’s summer vacation, Lev Afor and her friends are on the beach in Tel Aviv looking out at the vast horizon over the sea, where the wide world seems to lie at their feet. But a shadow falls on this idyllic seaside scene when Lev Afor receives her marching orders from the army: Will she be able to cope with the grueling ordeal of Israeli military service?
The Diary of Lev Afor is based on a study of students from an Israeli girls’ school, who were asked about their experiences during the three years before their mandatory military service. Kaplan and Carmel interweave the girls’ personal accounts with their own intimate observations of everyday life to paint a macroscopic portrait of present- day Israeli society. From one picture to the next, from one line of the story to the next, they immerse us in the peculiarly convoluted — often violent and sometimes tender — world of this teenage girl-cat growing up in modern Israel.