Call Guy Delisle a cartoonist is simplistic and slightly offensive. Mr. Delisle is a writer, period. He draws with pencils, he doesn’t fill his pages with words, but it is completely indifferent. And do not you dare to say that graphic novels belongs to a minor genre. Works of art such as Persepolis, Maus or LMVDM-My Life Bad Drawn, have nothing to envy to the russian sagas or to the much celebrated David Foster Wallace.
Guy Delisle is a canadian artist, born at the beginning of 1966 and for work or love has lived in some of the nations less accessible of the world and he has later recounted his experiences in his reportage comics. His first work, Shenzhen, talks about his experience in the Chinese metropolis, one of the most polluted cities in the world. His dark drawn makes the city gloomy and inhospitable.
His second voyage takes him to Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, where the suffocating dictatorship rules costumes and closure the minds of the inhabitants. The character of Delisle walks in desolated streets, stays in empties hotels and meets characters who are able to affirm and deny the same thought the day after. Dictatorship is impalpable in the state where Orwell’s 1984 is a dangerous and a subversive book.
Without a doubt his best works are the last two. In Burma Chronicles Guy is traveling with Nadège and his son Louis. The artist follows his partner Nadège, who works for Doctors Without Borders, in the claustrophobic nation of Myanmar, before the slight opening of the borders. While Nadège travels for missions away from home, Delisle walks down on the streets of Yangon, pushing the little Louis on the stroller. Several times tries to cross or even to meet activist Aung San Suu Kyi, but all attempts are ineffective.
For the same reasons, the family Delisle in 2008, moved to Jerusalem. 2008 is the year of Operation Cast Lead, one of the most dangerous periods of the conflict. It is not the postcard Israel but an everyday reality where the muezzin sings all the time, the Shabbat impose odd routines and the wall is inhabited by trained snipers. Delisle shows us the contradictions with the neutrality of a curious stranger. Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City won the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême.
The higher quality of Delisle is the drawn. Simple and authentic enough to make perfectly atmospheres and landscapes. For those who experienced those places they would recognize without doubt the crowded bazaars of Jerusalem or the piles on the green fields of Asia. Simplicity even in the face of strong themes such as war, disease or poverty, always treated with the respect of a stranger.
Guy Delisle is a must-read for all travelers. Oh, and you can track it on his blog: guydelisle.com.