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Pyongyang Hardcover – 13 Jun 2005

34 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 13 Jun 2005
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; 1st Hardcover Ed edition (13 Jun. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1896597890
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896597898
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.6 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,189,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Guy Delisle is a wry 37-year-old French Canadian cartoonist whose work for a French animation studio requires him to oversee production at various Pacific Rim studios on the grim frontiers of free trade. His employer puts him up for months at a time in 'cold and soulless' hotel rooms where he suffers the usual maladies of the long-term boarder: cultural and linguistic alienation, boredom, and cravings for Western food and real coffee. Delisle depicts these sojourns into the heart of isolation in [the] brilliant 'graphic novel' . . . "Pyongyang."" --"Foreign Affairs"

Book Description

'Great stuff - and proof that the comics panel can be another kind of window on the world' - Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Aleksander Dragnes on 19 May 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I, browsing at a bookstore, stumbled upon this book I could not help buying it, something I do not regret. The description of expat and foreign tourist life in North Korea is spot on. The picture on the front page with the young girls with forced, ear-to-ear permasmiles playing the accordion at the Mangyondae Children's Palace is almost exactly the same as one of the images that really stuck from the time I visited North Korea in 2002.

Guy Delisle is a 37-year old French Canadian cartoonist and animator working for a French animation studio. As one might expect, the French have been the first to set up shop in North Korea after the regime recently put the door ajar for foreign investors. Among the investors is the animation studio Mr Delisle works for. Animators in South-Korea and now also China have become too expensive.

Delisle was sent to Pyongyang to oversee one such production and in all spent two months there. With him he had a radio and Orwell's 1984. Both were of course strictly prohibited, the latest so much so that customs officer was not even aware of it. When we were the we had nothing much more subversive than a few issues of The Economist. This comic book is the result of Delisle's experiences, and it is a wry and accurate expression of the foreigner-in-North-Korea-experience.

At all times Delisle had to be accompanied by his guide and translator. He was not free to go where he wanted, even a trip to the railway stationed required several day's notice and approval from higher up. The little he got to see was the grandiose, but soulless sights built in the honour of North Korea's Great Leader: Eternal President, Marshal Kim Il-Sung. The pictures of Kim Il-Sung and his son, Dear Leader General Kim Jong-Il hang in all rooms except the lavatories.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miss P on 9 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
***Spoliers alert***

I was really disappointed with this book. I read a lot of graphic novels and for some reason, this book has always been highly recommended to me so I decided to buy it for a friend as he is travelling to North Korea soon.
I decided to read it before giving it to my friend and I am glad I did. I find this book a bit patronising and while reading it, I can't help being worried and intrigued about the North Korean characters that surround the author. I may be wrong, but this guy comes across as a bit of a patronising know-it-all who doesn't seem to care about how his actions may get his translator and driver in trouble. Anyway, I carried on reading until the point where he visits the Museum of Imperialist Occupation where he is guided through all the torture imagery by a stunning looking guide... And then the panel below (see piccie). I don't usually ever put a book down without finishing reading it but I found this comment bizarre (lost in translation maybe? Hopefully?) and the book altogether a bit too shallow. However, it has made me curious about finding out more about NK and what it is to live under such strict and isolated regime. Hence, the two stars.

Some people have commented on the style of illustration on the book- I think that one is perfectly fine. It has good timing. Shame about the writing and the lack of seeing beyond what's different.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By F Henwood TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
Guy Delisle is a French-Canadian cartoonist and animator who is 2003 is sent to oversee a team of North Korean animators making cartoons for a French animation studio - the grim frontiers of free trade, as the book's blurb puts it. This is not long after a famine nearly overwhelmed the regime and forced it to appeal for outside help.

This partial opening, just the slightest chink in the country's armour, allows him an opportunity to try and get a glimpse of what really lies beyond the façade of order and unity the country presents to the outside world. Since Delisle cannot leave the hotel unaccompanied by his guides, many of his efforts to this effect lie on his gently probing and teasing his guides to elicit a clue as to what they really think. Occasionally he pokes fun at them - because some of the claims they make are truly risible - but he is not contemptuous of them and many of his reflections are spent trying to fathom what makes them tick. When Delisle observes that don't appear to be any disabled people around, his guide informs him the reason for that is because North Koreans are all born strong and healthy. Hence there are no cripples or anyone even on crutches. Does the guide really believe that? At one point, Delisle lends one his guides a copy of 1984, which somehow was not confiscated by customs. The guide returns it to him a few days' later, visibly flustered. What did he think? Delisle never succeeds in finding out and indeed you know that he is not going to find out. There is no way anyone is going to find out until the regime finally disappears.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By david on 27 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I can't remember how I came across this book, but like the previous reviewers I'm very glad I did. The sparce cartoon style suits the subject matter perfectly. The author is able to convey the sense of an eerie, oppressive atmosphere brilliantly in just a few frames, where I'm sure a whole page of text would not be nearly as effective. Delisle apparently tried to record each day's events in cartoon form (no doubt as a way to kill the boredom), and it's details of the dull minutiae and insane bureaucracy of everyday life as a foreigner in North Korea, unable to travel freely, or do anything really, that makes this book so engaging. I started off dipping into it at random, and then read it cover to cover in one sitting, and it worked perfectly both ways. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether or not you like "graphic novels" or have any interest in North Korea. Brilliant.
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