Friday, 8 April 2016

Graphically speaking

Graphic Novels / Travel Writing from Guy Delisle

While I am renowned for reading anything and everything (cereal packets if there are no books) I don't often read graphic novels.  Superheroes leave me cold and have done since I was a child and never moved on from Super Ted and Banana Man so I have tended to avoid this area in bookshops and libraries as I perceive them to be full of this sort of story.

There have been exceptions, I enjoyed the historical and allegorical Maus books and was fascinated by Peresopolis for instance and so when Guy Delisle's books came up as suggestions on Goodreads I thought they might appeal to me.

So far I've raced though Burma Chronicles, Jerusalem, Pyongyang and I have just started Shenzen. They are a mix of autobiography, travelogue and cultural guide to some of the most interesting or restrictive places on the planet.

In some of the books Guy is alone and travelling as part of his job as a animator and in others he accompanies his wife, who works for Medicins Sans Frontieres, on her postings. All of the books give you some insight into the counties visited but personally I prefer the ones where Guy is with his family and trying to adjust to both a non traditional role (he is a house husband) and life in strange surroundings.

The illustrations are deceptively simple but convey so much, Guy manages to tell all sides of the story where he can and it does seem that he tries to get behind the public facade of the places he lives - perhaps it is being a Canadian (who is married to a French woman) that allows him to be both an objective observer as well as expressing his own opinions in a non-confrontational way.

The books I've read so far have all been translated from the original French but whether it is the style of the books or the quality of the translation I'd never have known. (I would credit the translator of them all as being Helge Dascher but I have returned some of the books to the library already and as is so often the case the translator is not credited on Wikipedia or Amazon for quick reference.)

I'm still not sure that I'm ever going to love graphic novels as genre as a whole but I will keep trying them as just occasionally I am going to hit gold like I did with these! If anyone can suggest more books like these I'd be grateful.

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