a canadian in the far east    Guy Delisle has worked in different animation studios over the last 15 years. Thanks to his line of work, not only has he had the chance to follow the development of the world of animation, this Canadian living in France has also had the opportunity to travel all over the world. Travel is probably not the right word, he has actually spent quite some time in lots of different places and he has chosen two of these experiences to make up these two astonishing stories.
In the red book Shenzhen, he tells us about the time he spent in the city of the same name in red China. He shows us this Chinese city besotted with the Western economic model and its dazzling lifestyle. It’s rather the paradox because the people who feel the most uncomfortable in this city hell-bent on copying Western ways, are the actual Westerners living there. In the blue Pyongyang North Korea is the star of the show. This comic novel is stronger than the Shenzhen (maybe because the country itself offers more raw material.) Delisle shows us what he has seen and learnt in this strange and surrealist land. Sometimes, it’s full of black irony, at other times it’s sad tenderness, but it’s always fun. Pyongyang is one of the best ways to get to know North Korea with actually going there.

These autobiographical comic books are along the lines of Joe Sacco’s work, but without a sniff of his good leftie American "social conscience". Delisle doesn’t condemn anything. He goes no further than his own experiences when he looks into Chinese and North Korean society. And he doesn’t need to. He shows us the contradictions of these societies just as he highlights his own contradictions and this brings a richer closeness and believability to the narrative. As an animator, the fact he tells us this story in comic format only enhances the story itself. He could have used text or some audiovisual documentary format but we are sure neither would have achieved the strength these comic books have. His drawings are simple and expressive, skilfully achieved as only an animator could. The author is represented by a character whose reflections on his life show us a foreigner who feels really out of place. Only a Canadian who never feels homesick could put something like this together with this kind of intelligence.