Every room hides a secret
Every room hides a secret
The graphic novel Agency “Rygor”: The Guests of Hotel Arago is unlike any other Polish historical title in that it was created with the active collaboration of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Agency. Tobiasz Piątkowski and Marek Oleksicki, creators of the critically acclaimed and popular Bradl, return to wartime stories, this time about a foreign mission of Polish intelligence officers in North Africa.
The first volume of Agency “Rygor” depicts the difficult beginnings of the titular Polish spy network in Algeria, initiated in 1941 by a Polish officer called Mieczysław “Rygor” Słowikowski. With time, this network spread all over North Africa, financed mostly by profits from the porridge oats factory which Słowikowski had set up. The African country was a colony of Vichy France at the time, a place teeming with spies from all the sides involved in the war, which features abundantly in The Guests of Hotel Arago. Here, every room hides a secret and the eponymous guests don’t always leave the hotel alive.
In the first spread of the novel, the creators show the most important – from the Polish perspective – stages of the first years of World War II. The temporal planes in Agency “Rygor” are intermingled: we get, for example, retrospections from Mieczysław Słowikowski’s earlier activities in France, where he smuggled Polish soldiers to England. But the crucial part of the work takes place in sunny Algiers, drawn by illustrator Marek Oleksicki in his characteristic, film noir-inspired graphic style.
These creative choices mean that the plot of Agency “Rygor” invites associations with certain frames from Casablanca. Słowikowski was, incidentally, considered to be a model for one of the film’s characters, Victor Laszlo. And although these are key elements of this graphic novel, let’s bear in mind that it is first and foremost a story about Polish wartime exiles, in this case intelligence officers, who – far away from their homeland – were paragons of Polish resourcefulness and dedication at a time when the country was under German occupation.
Translated by Marta Dziurosz
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