Ulla Donner: The Natural Comedy

A Dantean road trip in a Finnish forest, or what’s left of it.

Author: Ulla Donner
Swedish original: Den Naturliga Komedin
Publisher: Schildts & Söderströms, 2023; Galago (distribution in Sweden)
Genre: graphic novel
Number of pages: 120 pp.
Reading material: Swedish original, English translation, English synopsis

In the autumn, Birch the birch leaf is floating away from its forest tribe, and runs into Candy, a mixed mushroom, who’s just suffered a breakup. In Dantean fashion, the two roam through artificially modified natural reserves, coming across the ancient, grimy Mother Nature, a wellness cult headed by a Kombucha mushroom, as well as other woodland dwellers forced to adapt to their new habitats. 

The characters of the graphic adventure are like urban people: harmony-loving Birch swears by positivity and self-acceptance, woke Candy is committed to improving the world, but only on the terms of its own comfort, and patriotic Slime Mold has its mind set on doggedly pushing through the rock, despite going round it would save years of travelling. 

The Natural Comedy is the third work of Ulla Donner, winner of the Finlandia Prize for Best Graphic Novel in 2020. The sylvan fairytale grows into a hilarious satire about the Finns’ “special” relationship with nature. It is a tale about a society in which nature is subordinate to the human pursuit of profit and in which heaven and hell are only separated by how well each species manages to fit around people’s needs. The author also touches on xenophobia, comical features of young people’s dating rituals, and the societal terror of old age and hagsploitation in her characteristically wry manner. 

“With her graphic minimalism, understanding of detail and portraying the warped contemporary world with a perfect pitch, Ulla Donner has become one of the most interesting graphic novelists of the moment.”
–Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Crap

About the author:
Ulla Donner