Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (Guy Delisle)

If most travelogues glorify epic moments, this one focuses on duller "tweens".

As we learn from this Canadian cartoonist (Delisle comes from the Belle Province of Quebec), "tweens" are images needed to recompose a movement in a cartoon, between two "keys" drawn by chief animators. Boring stuff : one slight change at a time, no creativity involved... so studios outsource "tweens" to cheap labor countries.

Such as North Korea, where the author had to sojourn a few months to monitor the process.

"Pyongyang" is a graphic novel depicting the tweens between two flights.

Don't expect investigative journalism deep inside the country. "Pyongyang" is more the story of a failure to really enter North Korea.

Don't expect tales of hunger and misery. "Pyongyang" is more the story of a slice of melon and isolation.

That should be boring stuff : one slight change at a time, no creativity involved (absurd acts of subversion set aside)... but it's not. Image by image, Guy Delisle traps the reader into a Kafkaesque / Orwellian routine. And unlike Dino Buzzati's "
The Tartar Steppe / The Desert of the Tartars", or "The Great Walls of Samaris" (Stories of the fantastic - by Schuiten and Peeters)*, that's not fiction : only a simple and honest testimony.

Seoul Village 2009

* Buzzati for the rhythm and suspended time, Schuiten-Peeters for the architectural, theatrical, and somehow absurd journey.

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