Guy Delisle's PYONGYANG
A book review by Dennis McDonald
This graphic novel depicts a two-month visit to North Korea by animator Delisle to supervise children’s TV animation work for his French employer. As in his Burma Chronicles, Delisle deftly intertwines humor, wry cultural observations, self deprecating wit, and thinly disguised sarcasm.
Without the leavening of being with his family, as is the case with Burma Chronicles, Delisle must face squarely and unblinkingly the soul-numbing quality of life in North Korea. Because of this, the overall tone of this book is somber, even sad.
Perhaps if he had been there longer and had been able to develop more intimate relationships with his local acquaintances, things would have been different. But living with constant supervision and surveillance quickly become annoying and even mind-numbing, especially when the environment in which this happens is so repressive and bleak.
It’s no accident that he has a copy of Orwell’s 1984 with him. And it’s probably not too far-fetched to think that the current regime in North Korea has studied that novel for suggested approaches to governance.
Review copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald