Update 8/22/08: I finished Pyongyang the day after I started this post but am only now getting back to it. (Prepping for the start of fall semester has got me neglecting the blog a little.) Anyway, I found Pyongyang a dismal, dark, and moving portrait of North Korea’s A symbol of a nation of contradictions. from Pyongyangshowcase capital. Delisle paints an austere picture of a place couched in absurd lies, under the yoke of fear and suffocating oppression–but also void of resistance of even the slightest kind and lacking of all human affect. What I found most fascinating about this quick reading graphic novel was its very subtle story arc. Nothing really happens in any very dramatic sense. Rather, Delisle spends much of his time hoping and roaming for much more than there is–in his work there, in the food, the people, the culture. What’s striking is the weight of oppression Delisle himself feels in the memoir and, in turn, the oppression the reader begins to feel. It left me short of breath, as if I was trapped in close quarters–in a closet of darkness–a space too cramped to even turn around freely. The closing panels of the book moved me as Delisle one last time sends a paper airplane from his hotel window toward the Taedong river (a personal ritual he started during his stay). Watching it sail, grabbing the window ledge, “C’mon! Go!” he said.
reading pyongyang by guy delisle
Post started: 8/7/08:I took my first sojourn with serious graphic literature last summer when I read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis–an amazing memoir of a Satrapi coming of age in Iran during the cultural revolution. I highly recommend it. This summer, I thought I’d dip back into this fascinating (and under-recognized genre) with another graphic memoir. This time Pyongyang by Guy Delisle. As usual, I’ll post an update as I get into it or once I’ve completed it. I expect it will read quickly.