Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book Review: Pyongyang: A journey into North Korea

Title: Pyongyang: A journey into North Korea
Author: Guy Delisle
Paperback:  192 pages
Publisher:  Drawn and Quarterly (May 2007)
ISBN-13:  9781897299210

Try to keep expectations on level for this one: it's a graphic novel chronicling a two month animation project.  The gratuitous mountain of critical praise piled on the first few pages and back cover are really unneeded. There's no great revelation, no expounding truths to be found at the end and certainly no scholarly work was done. It was a job and he did it complaining most of the time. The rest of the time was spent criticizing transparent inefficiencies and consequently drowning sorrows away in peculiarly copious amounts of alcohol. The narration is predictably wry and cynical.

That isn't to say that "Pyongyang" is a bad read. Far from it. The illustrator is charmingly talented and wittingly depicts his unique, sheltered experience. He's astute without being cocky and meek without being self-deprecating. He's a regular guy whose snarky comments would probably come from 90% of us if we were in his shoes. After all, he isn't working for an NGO or some humanitarian cause; he's an animator working on cartoons. His observations are just that.

This isn't the latest groundbreaking piece from Andrei Lankov or the latest controversial drivel from Bruce Cumings; it's a graphic novel aimed a wide audience and it's fun. Worth a read.


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