Author(s): Guy DelisleDownload
Famously referred to as one of the “Axis of Evil” countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation’s capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, Delisle observed what he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered; his findings form the basis of this graphic novel.Guy Delisle was born in Quebec City in 1966 and has spent the last decade living and working in the South of France with his wife and son. Delisle has spent ten years, mostly in Europe, working in animation, an experience that taught him about movement and drawing. He is now currently focusing on his cartooning. Delisle has written and drawn six graphic novels, including “Pyongyang,” his first graphic novel in English.
Some Reviews: 1598 in Goodreads.com
This is a work of satire. Which means that trenchant wit, irony, sarcasm, parody or caricature is used to expose and discredit vice or folly, to ridicule conduct, doctrines, or institutions.
When I read the reviews, I have the impression that people tend to forget this, or that they really don’t like this genre. A considerable number of reviewers think the author is racist, misogynistic, self-righteous.
I don’t see him like that at all. His satire and politically incorrect jokes are lighthearted and not really offensive, and above all, he has always a self-mocking attitude.
Probably it all depends on one’s level of tolerance. If you’re easily offended, you better avoid this.
This book was originally published in 2002, and while much of its content is common knowledge by now, I was still startled by some of the things mentioned in it.
At some point Guy Delisle was surprised by the complete absence of handicapped people in Pyongyang. When he tried to talk about it with his guide, he received this answer : “There are none. We’re a very homogenous nation. All North Koreans are born strong, intelligent and healthy”.
This struck me as curious indeed, and after some searching on the internet, I found some really upsetting information…
Delisle’s Pyongyang experience is a little different from his other books because in the case of North Korea, Delisle is here to work on animation studies for a film. Apparently most major animation studios find animation devilishly expensive to produce in the home country and so go to lower-wage countries to do the in-between frames in a storyline so that the work is smooth and not herky-jerky.
Foreigners are asked to come for short periods of time to keep an eye on the project and get the work done on time and with the proper standards. While he was there, Delisle came across a not-insignificant number of people living in Pyongyang or passing through, on their way to remote outposts for different reasons. I’d always wondered about that, but wasn’t sure if it actually happened. Must be pretty grim work, considering Delisle’s experience ensconced in a big, empty, cold & impersonal hotel in the city…surely as comfortable a place as can be found.
Anyway, one gets a very good sense of what his days were like, what the city looked like, how fun was to be had, if it was to be had at all, but very little of the inner lives of residents, which is to be expected. Delisle’s work again adds to the richness of our understanding of the world.
I’ve been trying to read more books about North Korea because of recent news events. This is an interesting memoir by a Canadian artist who was sent to Pyongyang for his animation work. (Apparently a lot of animation is now done in Asia.) Delisle has a Western viewpoint, and he shares his cynicism about the endless propaganda and nationalism that is promoted in North Korea. Being a foreigner, he has several privileges that the citizens don’t, such as access to more food and electricity, but everywhere he goes he has to have a local guide with him, which was like having a prison guard monitoring his every word and movement.
Because so little is known about North Korea — most of what we know comes from people who have defected — I really liked this graphic novel travelogue, and his experience matches other material I’ve read, so it seemed believable.
All of Guy Delisle’s comic books are beguiling, funny and insightful and Pyongyang is extraordinary in this regard. And, in this particular moment, with certain dictatorial presidents trying to legitimize the completely f*cked up regime there (surely the ground-breaking of Trump Pyongyang International Hotel, Casino, and Bordel will happen in 2019-2020), it is a timely read. The author does all the drawing and screenplay and is a pleasure to read due to his perceptiveness but also his deadpan Canadian humor. Yes, he is Canadian so there is another reason to read it now 😉
I have a real interest in the very secretive communist country of North Korea and this illustrated book was a very original and suitably quirky way of providing the reader with an insight into the life of a foreign worker in NK’s capital city Pyongyang.
The book was really easy to pick up and read, although a little hard to put down with a lack of clear chapter divides. Considering that photographs and reports of the country are so heavily censored and restricted, Delisle very creatively illustrates his time spent working for an illustration company in the city.
The novel is very witty, humorous and satirical from start to end, providing the reader with an insight into what the North Korean’s often believe, and what is actually the truth. There is always a danger of personal opinion getting in the way of reporting the facts when it comes to such a strongly deposed regime. Delisle might often slip up into personal bias and opinion, perhaps forgetting to consider a more deeper insight into the motivation and understanding of the North Korean people – perhaps I’m being too optimistic or sympathetic.
Another interesting excerpt is when Delilse asks another illustrator to produce a two page example of an incident that he experienced whilst working in North Korea. To juxtapose the two styles of illustration and story-telling produces a more well-rounded impression to the reader of the same things occuring to every person that visits the country.
Very interesting and very funny – a novel way of story-telling.
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