Stats: Non-Fiction Graphic Novel, 192 pages, Edition Published by Drawn and Quarterly, September 2005.
My Rating: 3 STARS
When I think of North Korea I find it incredibly difficult to wrap my head around. There are a lot of How's? and Why's? attached to it and I always leave my search for answers with more questions. One being shown on the cover of Guy Delisle's, 'Pyongyang'. When I think of North Korea I think of a country staged for a performance to the entire outside world. Sometimes it's a performance of threat and danger and other times it's a performance of perfection. Either way, what I see is something rather confusing and scary even.
In Guy Delisle's graphic novel we get a look inside of North Korea unlike most others. As a foreigner, Guy is staying in Pyongyang for two months working as an animator for a French company. This alone was fascinating. When asking the question: "Who is traveling to North Korea?" Animators wasn't among the answers I was expecting. He is given a guide and a translator that follow his every move and spends most of his time working or seeing the tourist sights.
This graphic novel is very much about the bubble he lived in as someone visiting the country. We don't get a look at North Korea overall and we don't get to see much behind the curtain of the North Korean production as Guy walks within the strict perimeters he's given. It's a different perspective then what I was expecting, but a worthwhile read for the experience of Guy's day to day life in this unseen world.
The art in this book is a very important part of the narrative. The expressiveness and movement of the people tells you a lot about their individual character. From the foreigner friends Guy makes to the North Koreans who act as his co-workers and his guides. Although every person has an important part in the story of Guy's experiences, we don't get to know a whole lot about them. You have to rely a lot on the character design to tell you things that aren't shared in the narrative.
|French edition cover|
Overall, I would recommend it for the curious. It was certainly an interesting introduction to the country and perfect for the graphic novel form. I'll definitely be looking to read more of Guy's travel graphic novels and maybe even more in the travel genre itself.