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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  9,848 ratings  ·  828 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 November 15th 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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 Bryant
Just seen the news about Sony's movie The Interview and now I'm thinking - Uh oh - I hope this review doesn't get hacked and bring Goodreads down with it! Because really, all I am trying to do is to lower the international temperature and turn those tears to smiles as we present a short musical selection we like to call

MY BRILLIANT KOREA


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
...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
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 Librarian
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
Estelle
I rated it 2 stars at first simply because I felt bad hating something a friend had lent me... But I've gotta be honest, so this is getting a 1 star and a spot on my "hated list".

I didn't even bother finishing it, I was just too annoyed by the author's tone, his racist and misogynist remarks and the very poor humor.
This is not for me at all and I'd much rather be reading something else.

Give it a try if you're curious (Delisle seems to be a very popular graphic novels writter) and see for yourse
...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
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
Adalira Morningstar
This book should be renamed to A Journey of a Fucking Asshole because the author is an insufferable, racist, whiny dickbag of colossal proportions.

I think I finally snapped after the author talks about how people in North Korea are going without food, only to turn around and complain that he's gaining weight from the oily food they serve him at his hotel. How the fuck can you be so insensitive to complain about being so well fed while others literally starve around you? How do you draw that and
...more
Jose Luis
Un libro espectacular por el entorno en el que se desarrolla la historia, pero sin mucha historia que contar. El autor narra de forma anodina una sucesión de cosas en su mayoría anodinas, durante su estancia en el territorio más anodino (a la fuerza) del planeta. Lo importante que se extrae es lo que no se cuenta, lo que uno entrevé atando los cabos sueltos que el autor muestra desordenados.

Tres estrellas van por conseguir estar ahí, soportarlo, y atreverse a contarlo. Las dos que faltan llegarí
...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
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
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
Tyska
It was very difficult to collect my thoughts on this book. Mostly because I wasn't able to determine what kind of story the author really was trying to tell. At first, the overall tone is very aggravating, ignorant and lacking in respect. However, I am not sure how self-aware the author was concerning those points. For example, he often wondered if people really believed what they were told (p 74), and then some pages later (p 108) he said that for once people actually spoke their mind. Other ex ...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
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
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
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
Jennifer
Autant je n'ai pas aimé "Chroniques de Jérusalem", autant j'ai adoré celui-là qui avait hautement piqué de ma curiosité en raison de cette incursion exceptionnelle en Corée du Nord. Cette fois-ci, j'ai vraiment été charmée par le ton critique et irrévérencieux de l'auteur. Cette BD qui se lit d'un trait et qu'on est incapable de lâcher est une fenêtre inespérée sur un pays auquel on a très peu accès autrement. Le contexte y est bien décrit, l'accent est beaucoup mis sur la propagande et sur l'ét ...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 osser
...more
Saurabh
The book is okay, do not expect too much. The kind of news/events western media serves for North Korea, this book just affirms them. There are some new facts, but not very startling. Somewhat a little dull reading; but thanks to Delisle's excellent sense of humor, it saves ! This is somewhat expected, since it is a journalists' writing, not a fiction. So, No climax or ups and downs.

I would like to have more information about common people's life, the education system, political hierarchy, peopl
...more
Mary
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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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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