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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  24,540 ratings  ·  2,096 reviews
Famously referred to as one of the "Axis of Evil" countries, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. In early 2001 cartoonist Guy Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country. While living in the nation's capital for two months on a work visa for a French film animation company, ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published May 1st 2003)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  24,540 ratings  ·  2,096 reviews

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Emily May
I think of mentioning it to our charming guide, but why bother in a country that’s so devoid of common sense?

I've spent most of the last 24 hours immersed in non-fiction graphic novels. Tatiana's review of The Arab of the Future 3 inspired me to seek out other graphic novels about foreign countries, and I've already read and enjoyed Sacco's Palestine and Delisle's Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is another Delisle book, but this one I liked consi
Jan 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Jon Nakapalau
Guy Delisle takes us to a place most of us will never see or be allowed to see. His journey through NK can only be described as 'surrealler' than surrealism. My gut tells me NK is a flashpoint; a long fuse is just coiled up around the whole country; one spark of misunderstanding could light it up. Hope I'm wrong. ...more
Greta G
This is a work of satire. Which means that trenchant wit, irony, sarcasm, parody or caricature is used to expose and discredit vice or folly, to ridicule conduct, doctrines, or institutions.
When I read the reviews, I have the impression that people tend to forget this, or that they really don't like this genre. A considerable number of reviewers think the author is racist, misogynistic, self-righteous.

I don't see him like that at all. His satire and politically incorrect jokes are lighthearted
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


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,
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
Delisle's Pyongyang experience is a little different from his other books because in the case of North Korea, Delisle is here to work on animation studies for a film. Apparently most major animation studios find animation devilishly expensive to produce in the home country and so go to lower-wage countries to do the in-between frames in a storyline so that the work is smooth and not herky-jerky.

Foreigners are asked to come for short periods of time to keep an eye on the project and get the work
Guy Deslisle's 'Pyongyang' provides a still-rare look at N.Korea, the authoritarian nightmare from which millions of whispering prisoners are still hoping to wake... while the majority of these prisoners were born in their jail-cells, and lack all context for imagining a 'better' life. The Kim Jongs' tightly controlled censors & filters made certain every trickle of online data passing through their servers & firewalls could never threaten to destabilize the slapdash scaffolding propping up thei ...more
Pramod Nair
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea - originally published as 'Pyongyang' in French - by Canadian cartoonist Guy Delisle, is a travel memoir presented in a graphic novel format. The book presents the author’s personal experiences at 'Pyongyang', the capital of North Korea during his two months stay in 2001 working as a coordinator between a French animation company and SEK studio in North Korea. During this stay every movement of Guy Delisle was constantly accompanied and monitored by the state ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
All of Guy Delisle's comic books are beguiling, funny and insightful and Pyongyang is extraordinary in this regard. And, in this particular moment, with certain dictatorial presidents trying to legitimize the completely f*cked up regime there (surely the ground-breaking of Trump Pyongyang International Hotel, Casino, and Bordel will happen in 2019-2020), it is a timely read. The author does all the drawing and screenplay and is a pleasure to read due to his perceptiveness but also his deadpan Ca ...more
Apr 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Dave Schaafsma
Mar 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gn-memoir
I am amazed at all the 4 and 5 star reviews about this book. I just generally do not like Delisle's work, maybe. He as a "character" in his own memoir I certainly do not like, or haven't yet. Second book I read, and the only reason I read it was because I had just read Our Twisted Hero, a story by a Korean author about Korea in the fifties, a political parable I really liked, and found moving and insightful, so I thought: oh, Delisle was there in recent years, he may give me some deep insights i ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read again because of current events.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I generally like Delisle's work. I like his drawing style, I find it rather charming and I like his slice of life stuff that informs the work. He is adept at throwing in little touches of humor, both visual and verbal, which I enjoy. But I gotta be honest here, there were points in this book where he came across as very smug and condescending towards North Koreans. Dehumanizing. It was surprising and disappointing, I guess I didn't expect that from him, and I found it disrespectful and I think i ...more
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
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
Apr 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 14, 2022 rated it liked it
Shelves: north-korea-both
Who needs SciFi when the world already has NoKo?
A place where everything is controlled. There is no outside information. Hell, there is no inside information. Every song is about the Dear Leader or the Great Leader. Time has even been altered to start at the time of Kim Il Sung’s conception. Yup - when he was conceived.

Everything is clean, so clean. Well, everything outside, apparently not the restaurants in the largely empty tourist hotels, they sound disgusting, but outside? Landscaping is do
Nov 19, 2008 rated it liked it
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."
Mar 15, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Lady Jayme,
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
I wanted to like this. I expected to like this, honestly. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't. I really enjoy graphic novels, I enjoy them when they are non-fiction, and I have been wanting to read travel memoirs since it's am unexplored and fascinating topic for me. This should have been a good fit.

The art was enjoyable in a simplistic way and there was a moment or two I smiled at a bit. I did learn a nit about North Korea that I didn't already know, which is always a plus. It did make m
Nov 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I see a lot of quibbling here about whether or not the author is an asshole. Mostly it's along the lines of "he called the water delivery woman a bitch; he's an asshole" vs. "no he didn't and no he isn't." And so on. Y'all are missing the point* -- he's an epic, amoral, complicit asshole just for taking the job in the first place. The reason for widespread boycotting of North Korea, even by aid organizations, is that economic activity doesn't help the people. Bringing economic activity to North ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Really funny in places but man he takes it too far. Some commentary on the people on how they look etc, well it’s just racist af. And the worst comment was about the female guide in a war museum he visited: “Our guide is truly stunning and listening to her graphic descriptions, I think up a few tortures of my own that I wouldn’t mind inflicting on her.” WTAF?
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bit different than other graphic novels I read. There is no classical storyline, plots twists or punchline.This is kind of memoir from one of not many foreigners who had visited North Korea and brief window into bleak realty of country surgically removed from the rest of the world.
Read as a trenchant political satire, I thought this had some hilarious parts and I liked Delisle's "take" on his time in North Korea. I wonder how/if the country has shifted since the time of this writing.

3/5 stars - entertaining, informational, with some laugh out loud moments.
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a travelogue from cartoonist Guy Delisle who went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea to work on a French Project regarding some animation film. He illustrated his two months long stay in that supreme city of supreme leaders in this graphic novel.

Every single thing in that city was weird for a foreigner like MR. Guy! Whenever any outsider enters the city, they must be accompanied by a guide always and they must follow the instructions of their guides! Even they cannot hire a taxi o
Christopher Pulleyn
Apr 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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
May 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics, nonfiction
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
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While the trip described in this book was taken at least 16 years ago, these vignettes, presented in graphic style, ring true with more contemporary literature.

Delisle shows the massive empty buildings, the “volunteers” planting crops, the many portraits of and monuments to of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. Wherever he goes he is followed by at least a minder and usually a translator and a guide. The translator has internalized the country’s propaganda, and Delisle has several portrayals of how th
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Play Book Tag: Pyongyang: a journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle - 4 stars 4 22 Jul 19, 2018 10:14AM  
Play Book Tag: Pyongyang by Guy Delisle - 3 stars 3 17 Feb 21, 2018 07:35PM  
Book Club: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea 1 3 Nov 11, 2017 06:29PM  
AlexandriaLibraryVA: October 10, 2017 - "Pyongyang" by Guy Delisle 1 8 Sep 11, 2017 02:02PM  
cover 2 69 Aug 20, 2008 10:07PM  

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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,

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