16 April 2009

Burma Chronicles, by Guy Delisle

I've been a big graphic novel kick lately, and randomly picked this up in the library while searching the shelves the next volume of Y: The Last Man. As it happened, the Y books had to take a seat on the bench for a couple days, because I was totally enraptured by the Burma Chronicles. 

The work is basically a kind of travel diary of the author's experiences living in Burma for a year with his wife (who works for Doctors Without Borders) and baby son. It's part quotidian adventure, part general culture shock, part history/documentary of Burma itself, and part reflection on life under oppressive dictatorship. Apparently this is a genre Delisle is well versed in - he's also got a book about North Korea, and one about China (which amazon reviewers say is decidedly inferior to the others). Anyhow, Guy is a sympathetic character and amusing narrator, with interesting observations about seemingly mundane details, and a nice eye for detail. The artwork is more complex than it appears at first glance, and is well done. What I also really appreciated were these occasional moments of vulnerability - he describes, for instance, grand plans for political protest, elaborating them over several frames, and then immediately gives a single frame that shows how rapidly he abandoned the plan for no particular reason. There's something touching about both giving the dream and admitting its failure, I was impressed. Finally, I learned a lot about Burma itself, which is nice - I knew pretty much nothing about it beforehand. 

Anyhow, really a lovely book, much recommended.

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