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In place of the title, there are six numbers and you try and read them. But if they convey some pluralities, which are those ? You read them but what do they mean ? Seventy three thousand three hundred and four, twenty three, four thousand one hundred fifty three, six, ninety six, eight, a series based on obscure randomness, maybe unacceptable, that even in words of English doesn’t say anything more. Such a silence would only foster wordy hypotheses. One then needs the talent of Thomas Ott to build an entire story on those, and a silent one to boot.

Finding a logic to what is there, plural but seemingly insignificant, absurd, would sum up both our condition and our means to survive it. The underlying credo would be : what becomes a sign, becomes a meaning ; anything being a sign, everything must mean something.
Childhood is the time where we learn those letters and numbers, as we learn to talk and count. Adulthood would then be a world where these teachings bring meaning, to satisfy an entire lifespan.
An executioner, having found this series of numbers at the foot of the electric chair he has just used, will discover that the meaning of a life can be summed up in a series of numbers in a certain order, an abstract painting of present and short term. Who cares who scripted/described it,[1] what is important is that it validates and/or predicts tangibly the events of a day, good as bad. Progression then curse, the executioner will end up being what he really is, a killer, slipping from his professional legality to the criminal illegality, eventually victim of the punishment he used to bestow, and maybe, becoming part of an innumerable chain of guilty humanity.

Double sight, double meaning, moving from the too human logic of (Faustian) fate to the too human logic of the police blotter. Those figures express non-zero quantities, and yet they end up the facets of a fatality, their lower common denominators in a numerical series bringing the banality of desires towards the absent unity (zero). 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 is a dazzling noir story, a pictorial tour de force and final killer[2] of the received ideas that some might still cultivate regarding comic books in this genre, especially silent ones.
Thomas Ott even solves elegantly the problem of the title, this insolvable domain of words in a silent book, resorting to the use of figures and numbers. They can be read in any language, like silent comic books, and here, they do perfectly embrace their role as title, bringing an enigmatic appeal, an identity cleverly evocative of registration numbers,[3] while showing/hiding an implacable scansion that beats at the heart of the lethal arrhythmia of this story.


  1. But maybe it is God himself who authored it. This strip of numbers reminds of the phylacteries in their primary and biblical definition, and the man who owned it prior used to keep it in a Bible… Also remains, for Thomas Ott, an efficient way to give those numbers an eschatological statute, with signs becoming symbols of both an hyper rationality and a potential future-telling, in being for some of this language both universal and of the universe.
  2. With silencer.
  3. Which would describe the book both as an object (a kind of ISBN, in a way), but also the themes it covers, be it police-related (prison registers, metric anthropology), be it randomness at large (winning numbers of the lottery, betting system) or contemporary life (social security number, statistics or dates in a life, biometry, computerization, etc.).
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Chroniqué par in June 2008