Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  7,978 ratings  ·  670 reviews
Famously referred to as part of the 'Axis-of-Evil', North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. A series of manmade and natural catastrophes have also left it one of the poorest. When the fortress-like country recently opened the door a crack to foreign investment, cartoonist Guy Delisle found himself in its capital Pyongyang on...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 5th 2006 by Jonathan Cape (first published 2003)
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Lilburninbean
I don’t know where to begin describing this book. When I first read about it, I was so excited to get my hands on it because it sounded so intriguing. And with all the excellent write-ups people have given it, I was hopeful it would offer a)an insightful account of a travel/work experience in North Korea and b)a narrative that was somewhat self-aware and unlike so many travel logs by douche-baggy Westerners who have a superiority complex yet claim not to be racist. I’m so utterly disappointed. A...more
Paul
In an attempt to lower the international temperature, let us here on Goodreads try to turn those tears to smiles as we present a short musical selection


President Obama (dressed as a Mother Superior) :

Have you met my good friend North Korea,
The craziest nation on earth?
You'll know it the minute you see it,
You'll collapse into inappropriate mirth


Mrs Kim Jong-un (looking up from reading the new York Times):

The Jong-uns, darling we're the Jong-uns
And Jong-uns shouldn't be afraid
to live - love - w...more
Clickety
Reading this about the same time I read Persepolis 2 got me thinking about the differences between the experiences each author had traveling/living in another country. In Persepolis 2, the characters are a hodgepodge of flavors; in Pyongyang, there are two types: foreigner and native.

Delisle seems blissfully unaware of his own prejudice and selfishness, which was what really made the book ring true. I mean, honestly - everyone thinks that his or her own belief system and way of life is "right."...more
Lady Jayme,
This book is a true account of a French animator (Guy Delisle) who travels to North Korea to oversee a cartooning project. Since North Korea is one of the most closed nations on earth and is run by a totalitarian government, this insight into North Korean life is amazing and somewhat shocking. This is a graphic novel and Delisle’s drawings are simple but fun. The lack of freedom is at times heartbreaking, but there are plenty of humorous moments. Delisle also throws in some facts about the world...more
Diane
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 ever...more
Christopher Pulleyn
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 illustra...more
Admatha
I very much liked this, and the accusations of misogyny, racism, etc somewhat baffle me. His one uttering of "bitch" was muttered in a moment when he was both very tired and very frustrated. His reaction to the people around him seems to be one of trying to respect a culture while being stunned at how incredibly sheltered the residents were. I got the impression that he respected the people he was working and living with, even made some clumsy (and ultimately failed) attempts to break down the m...more
Grace
It was ok. The subject matter and observations were pretty fascinating. But I LOATHED the artist's tone, and it was distracting. I found him to be disrespectful and xenophobic. Yes, I said disrespectful and I meant it. Sure, the North Korean government is responsible for some of the worst human rights violations in the world, and they deserve to be criticized. But the author chose to go there, chose to do business with them, and chose to allow the money he is getting paid for his work there to e...more
angela
I have to agree with some of the other reviews that call Delisle on his racism and misogyny. It wasn't even the kind of over-the-top, look-at-how-ridiculous-I-am-being, poking-fun-at-racism kind of racism that I've come to expect from so-called comedians and authors today. It was plain, old boring thinly veiled racism and misogyny. Objectifying women, calling them bitches, calling Korean children "monkeys", generalizing about "these" countries and all of Asia as if there is no diversity to be fo...more
Mateo
When I was a little kid, we read comic books like Archie and Jughead or Dennis the Menace--innocent reads for innocent kids. Later, we--wait. I just have to interrupt myself to say this: Is there any way that Archie and Jughead were not totally gay? I mean, totally, completely, flamingly homo gaius maximus? Because, look, here you have two incredibly well-chested hotties in Betty and Veronica, walking around in miniskirts and hippie beads, and meanwhile A. and J. are hanging out with each other...more
Pete
Jul 18, 2007 Pete rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: travellers, people who want to travel
Shelves: indiecomics
I don't remember much about the movie "Lost in Translation," but what I do remember is that it did do a good job of capturing that mixed sense of loneliness and exoticism found through travel and exploration. That's the same thing that I really like about "Pyongyang."

Written through from the perspective of a visiting French-Canadian animator, this book gives you a sense of his daily life there, what he's allowed to see and not to see. As an American, this account was especially interesting as it...more
Veeral
Not bad. The graphics are good. But having said that, Guy Delisle's work fails to shed any new light about the life of people living in North Korea. It might have been a revealing work when it was first published but almost all the things mentioned in the book about North Korea could be found easily on the internet in present times.

Being a cartoonist, Guy Delisle visited North Korea for 2 months on a work visa to supervise the animation of a children's cartoon show.

And yes, it also seem to me...more
Hans
I remember a comment by Viktor Frankl about how the humor in the concentration camps was a form of "gallows humor", which best describes what it feels like when joking about North Korea. This book is essentially a travelogue about probably one of the most drab and yet bizarre places a westerner could possibly visit. The black and white penciling capture the drab while the drawing style captures the bizarre. Though there isn't much of a storyline, other than the author's quirky observations on th...more
Louis
This is Guy Delisle's story in cartoon form of his time as an animator for a French company working in North Korea. The style is sparse, almost merely sketching, which actually enhances the story. The view he gives of North Korea is a harsh one. As a westerner, he is restricted to the parts of North Korea that the government wants him to see, and there are several humorous episodes as his handlers find themselves working very hard to keep him on track. He sees many absurdities along the way. The...more
Alexander
Part of what's amazing about this book is that it very much had to be a graphic novel: the story of a French animator who travels to Pyongyang, North Korea, in order to oversee an animation project, because, and this I didn't know, much of the animation that's done in the films we all watch here in the west is done there, in North Korea. The artists there fill in the movements between the major art cells, needed to do the laborious moment by moment cell replication that most artists do not want...more
Sarah
This was a fascinating look into visiting contemporary-ish North Korea, and I'm definitely interested in Delisle's other graphic novel travelogues. I'm docking a star because some of Delisle's reactions to his surroundings were unexpectedly lacking in empathy, and his contempt for the regime occasionally bled into contempt for the people who live at its mercy. In particular, his deliberate baiting of his handlers and his mean little fantasy of pouring water over the head of the hotel worker task...more
Stella
As someone completely alien to North Korean history, culture and language I was pretty excited when I saw this at my local library. And Pyongyang reads very quickly & frankly - you really get a sense of his frustration to being constantly restricted and monitored and his desire to try and get a peek at a bigger picture of North Korea then what he's presented with. Unfortunately, the narrator is never able to really overcome his outsider status. He seems to make no serious attempt to learn th...more
Zach Danielson
Oct 18, 2010 Zach Danielson rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zach by: Kevin
This graphic novel is the autobiographical story of Canadian Guy Delisle's visit to North Korea, where he worked for two months as a consultant for an animation company. It's a very interesting view into this famously closed country, even if his experience is carefully controlled by the regime.



Delisle approaches everything with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. The narrative takes frequent side trips to offer historical context, commentary, and pictoral musings.



He can be funny, but he can also...more
Jason
Here's my whole take on this one. We have a semi-autobiographical story about when Delisle comes to North Korea to be an animationist. He is a swell, dopey man with a positive attitude and a wish to have fun and enjoy himself despite the circumstance. He's not oblivious to the poverty and deprivation that surrounds him, the outlandish facade that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il have set up in Pyongnang to make Westerners feel like it is a magnificent city.

On the contrary, he is keenly aware of how...more
Amy
Interesting to see which foreign nationals are visiting North Korea, for what commercial ventures. There's been more foreign investment in silly projects (like massive hotels) than I'd realized. No insights into what life is like for North Koreans. Even when the author slipped away from his minders (which he did mostly by accident), there was only so far he could go. He's not a journalist, and even if he were, nobody would talk to him.

The author puts on a sophomoric attitude (at least, I hope it...more
Isaac
Feb 13, 2008 Isaac rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People curious about North Korea
Recommended to Isaac by: Found it at the library
It's on a pretty rare occasion that someone from outside the country gets to live, work and travel in North Korea for a period of time, let alone writes a graphic novel about it. All he really gets to see is what he is allowed to see by the officials who show him around, and much of the time he is confined to writing about his experiences in one of the three Pyongyang hotels that cater to foreign businessmen. Even inside the country, he is limited to viewing things from a distance. Despite this,...more
Caroline
A lot of interesting observations, but not much insight, in this comic-book-memoir. Guy Delisle was a French-Canadian cartoonist, working for an animation company in North Korea. As a rare Western glimpse inside that country, the book is valuable, and Delisle's spare cartooning creates a feeling of other-worldly bleakness. But as a story, there's not much to it, and Delisle and his European friends come off as bitter, smug jerks who joke constantly at the expense of their Korean guides and inter...more
Brendan
Guy Delisle, a French-Canadian animator, is expert at invoking the odd, the unexpected, even the surreal, all of which Pyongyang predictably provides in abundance. How wonderfully strange, for instance, that of the 50 floors in Delisle’s hotel, only a single floor is lit, and only part of that floor is occupied. Much of the regime’s power, it seems, is mere artifice.

To his credit, Delisle’s method is often elliptical enough that a second reading is necessary to fully appreciate the terror that l...more
Michalyn
This was one of the funniest and saddest graphic novels I've read. There's something both absurd and strangely fitting about the fact that cartoon animation is one of the few "thriving" industries in North Korea. One thing that's obvious from Pyongyang is that there is a constant proliferation of images upon images upon images. It's like the harder things become for North Koreans, the more images the regime creates. I've never quite understood that quality of dictatorship and the place even the...more
serena
Go read Lilburninbean's review. She pretty much does an excellent job summing up.

I forced myself to finish this graphic novel and felt like smacking the guy upside the head... Boo hoo hoo, poor French Canadian dude has to spend a few months in North Korea, living what is a very good life and eating very well compared to other North Koreans, but whining through it. Acting like a pretty standard spoiled, holier-than-thou Westerner. It is a poor, unenlightening account that doesn't bring you any cl...more
LeeAnne
In 2001, Guy Delisle's job with a French-Canadian animation company took him to a place few foreigners are ever allowed to visit: Pyongyang, North Korea. Delisle composed a graphic novel detailing his lonely two month stay working there.

His drawings are simple and minimalist and very amusing. They offer the reader a glimpse into the most isolated, mysterious and fortified country in the world. It's obvious that North Korea is slowly coming apart at the seams but the regime is desperately trying...more
Piperitapitta
La penisola di plastica.

*** e 1/2

Se Guy Delisle tornasse per la prima volta in Corea del Nord oggi, e raccontasse nuovamente il suo soggiorno a Pyongyang, ne guadagnerebbero il tratto - qui ancora acerbo - la storia - qui ancora troppo frammentaria e puntata su di sé - e la profondità - qui ancora lontana dalla capacità di Delisle di raccontare un paese e le sue contraddizioni, con pochi tratti, battute fulminanti e deliziosa stupefatta ironia, a chi non c'è mai stato.
Eppure resta sempre un osse...more
Val
A friend lent me a copy of this book by Guy DeLisle and the short of it is: it made me want to read the rest of his travelogue books.

This is, pretty simply, an account of Delisle's stint in North Korea working at a French animation studio. By that very sentence alone anyone who knows me well will understand why this comic book piqued my curiosity initially but what kept my interest sustained is Delisle's earnestness.

Reading through the book, it feels as though he wanted to truly let his reader...more
Mary
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Mary
I might have liked this better if I'd read it before Nothing to Envy which offered an unflinching look into daily life in North Korea. Now, though, this book seems callous. It's a travelogue of a Western visitor who is in the capital for two months and restricted by his constant companions, a guide and a translator, from seeing any but the official sites. It's just a different perspective and so could have been interesting, but Delisle comes off as insensitive and thick. He demonstrates that he...more
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Born in Quebec, Canada, Guy Delisle studied animation at Sheridan College. Delisle has worked for numerous animation studios around the world, including CinéGroupe in Montreal.

Drawing from his experience at animation studios in China and North Korea, Delisle's graphic novels Shenzen and Pyongyang depict these two countries from a Westerner's perspective. A third graphic novel, Chroniques Birmanes,...more
More about Guy Delisle...
Burma Chronicles Chroniques de Jérusalem Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting Albert and the Others

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