Volume 1 of Riad Sattouf's cartoon memoir* tells the story of the French cartoonist's early years, which sees him and his family move from France to LVolume 1 of Riad Sattouf's cartoon memoir* tells the story of the French cartoonist's early years, which sees him and his family move from France to Lybia, back to France, then to Syria. As best as I can tell it covers the first five years of his life.
Sattouf's father, a kind of naive idealist, looms large in this volume (he may even be the protagonist to some degree), in contrast to the young, largely speechless Sattouf, and his mother, a French woman who leaves her homeland for the Middle East.
During the family's stay in Libya they barely leave the house because, under Gaddafi, anyone could live in any house or apartment that happened to be vacant. Through the perspective of Sattouf the toddler the more absurdist aspects of the Libyan dictator's regime come across as no less strange than any other aspect of adult life.
After a brief sojourn in France the family is off to the Syrian city of Homs, where Riad's mother gives birth to another son. Homs comes across as an even more backwards wasteland than Tripoli, with a constant stream of tattered plastic bags being blown around by the wind and children defecating on the street. Unlike Libya, where Gaddafi had at least the pretense of a progressive vision, insane though it was, in Syria there is no fig leaf concealing the Assad family's totalitarian instinct, and the pervading sense of hopelessness makes for some pretty dour (though wonderfully-drawn) scenes.
As a perpetually optimistic western-educated non-believer, Sattouf's father is not entirely at home among either the cowed and fearful populace of Libya or the ultra-devout community of his ancestral Syrian homeland. He shamelessly admires the totalitarian approach to government for the Middle East, however, and though his western outlook gives him an intense, though vague, vision of a progressive future for the region, he opts for most of the volume to be an observer of events rather than shape them. Towards the end of the volume, however, he seems to imprint his vision, and hopes, for Syria, and the Middle East at large, onto his son, the so-called "Arab of the Future" of the title.
* Is there a better word for this? The term "cartoon memoir" might come across as belittling, but it is less confusing than "graphic memoir", which makes it sound full of sex and violence (it's not), or "comic memoir", which makes it sound like a laugh riot (ditto)....more
I feel like some of the best, grittiest, most gonzo science fiction you can find these days is in comic books. You've got Brandon Graham's Prophet rebI feel like some of the best, grittiest, most gonzo science fiction you can find these days is in comic books. You've got Brandon Graham's Prophet reboot and Multiple Warheads, Rick Remender's Black Science, Eric Stephenson's Nowhere Men, and now this one. The Manhattan Projects is an alternate history of the Manhattan Project, layered in with post-apocalyptic, conspiracy theory, intergalactic warfare plot threads. So much fun....more
I made the mistake of reading the last 50-odd pages to this book on the subway into work this morning. I probably looked ridiculous in my white collarI made the mistake of reading the last 50-odd pages to this book on the subway into work this morning. I probably looked ridiculous in my white collar shirt and slacks choking back tears while holding what appears to be a child's picture book in my hands, but you know what? They'd be bawling too. This was a book that deals with a deeply human fact about the slow, torturous loss of a loved one, and it does so pretty unsparingly. My hat comes off, and hankie comes out....more
Maybe not exactly worthy of five stars, but Sinners stands head and shoulders about the other volumes of Brubaker & Phillips's Criminal series inMaybe not exactly worthy of five stars, but Sinners stands head and shoulders about the other volumes of Brubaker & Phillips's Criminal series in my reading thus far (I have yet to read Bad Night).
Sinners takes the Lester Dent pulp fiction formula, pours kerosine and gunpowder on it and then tosses it off a cliff. The Lester Dent formula basically involves heaping trouble after trouble onto the hero, never letting him get the upper hand until the very end, and Sinners's hero, Tracy Lawless, is indeed getting squeezed on all sides: his employer, the most powerful mobster in town, is unhappy with his services and suspicious of his daughter's relationship with Tracy, the military police are after him for being AWOL, and the Triads and a murderous cabal run are out for his blood for their own reasons. And this is just a taste. Brubaker never lets off, always ratcheting up the pressure on Tracy and never letting the story plateau until the very end. Very well done....more