Let the people who never find true love keep saying there’s no such thing

Toro Elmar’s Perpetual Melancholy (2013; Rally the Troops)

Jakarta, Indonesia

Toro Elmar’s Perpetual Melancholy is about a girl, the way that every story we have revisited on our shelves or in our heads is about a girl: meaning it’s not so much about any particular girl, as it is about the alternate ending imagined in her absence. Like so many love stories built from a myth and told in an unreliable mix of hormones and heartache, Perpetual Melancholyis about its author, who is–presumably–Elmar himself.

Made up mostly of imagined conversations and passing thoughts, Elmar (which may or may not be an acceptable last name–I don’t understand Indonesians) explores the quiet moments that get us through to the promise of catharsis that lies on the opposite side of every mistake. Elmar’s story is not driven by a discernible plot, rather it reads like an internal monologue dedicated to the object at the heart of one’s sorrows. In that object’s absence, Elmar instead confronts the abstractions that have replaced it, in three chapters, respectively: a shadow, an anonymous crowd, and the empty landscape one observes while in transit.

However, Perpetual Melancholy fails to deliver the feeling of perpetuity that its title promises. At 38 pages, the entire book can be finished in less than 20 minutes (“It will be longer when I quit my day job,” promises Elmar)- making it more like a passing mention of a past love than the overwrought wallowing (at worst) or lucid reflection (at best) that comic readers have come to expect of this particular genre.

As if to fill in the gaps in a characteristically unfinished story, Elmar includes a mixtape. “Play the mixtape now,” appears as an imperative in the first of the book’s beautifully illustrated pages. This soundtrack evokes the words that escape the author in his inadequacy to describe the traces left in the wake of a swift exit. A dead giveaway of his age, Elmar turns to music for its alchemical properties, thus converting personal struggles into universal problems (Elmar also runs DIY label, Sailboat Records). Each chapter has a corresponding set of tracks, and if it serves as any clue, American Football’s “For Sure” makes an appearance in the last chapter, creating a sense of optimism about the fates involved in this story and putting an end to the perpetual melancholy spoken of at the start.


Perpetual Melancholy was first exhibited at Cergambore 2013, in Surabaya. Only 20 copies were produced at Rp. 35,000 (roughly Php 140.00) apiece, but Toro Elmar can be pestered for a soft copy through facebook (which is sort of what I did).

Photos were taken from Toro Elmar’s website: http://www.toroelmar.com

The title was taken from a song by Riuh, included in the second track of the Perpetual Melancholy mixtape.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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