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Pyongyang [Hardcover]

Guy Delisle
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

13 Jun 2005
Famously referred to as an "Axis-of-Evil" country, North Korea remains one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today. A series of manmade and natural catastrophes have also left it one of the poorest. When the fortress-like country recently opened the door a crack to foreign investment, cartoonist Guy Delisle found himself in its capital of Pyongyang on a work visa for a French film animation company, becoming one of the few Westerners to witness current conditions in the surreal showcase city. Armed with a smuggled radio and a copy of 1984, Delisle could only explore Pyongyang and its countryside while chaperoned by his translator and a guide. But among the statues, portraits and propaganda of leaders Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il - the world's only Communist dynasty - Delisle was able to observe more than was intended of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered. His astute and wry musings on life in the austere and grim regime form the basis of this remarkable graphic novel. "Pyongyang" is an informative, personal, and accessible look at an enigmatic country.

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: 22.3 x 16.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 738,229 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
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot On 19 May 2006
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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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book 5 Feb 2007
I oredered this book out of curiosity about North Korea; out the same reason I also bought AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG. Guy Delisle's book is just great - I enjoyed the time reading it - it gets you from the first pages. One does not get to know many details about functioning of North Korean society, as most of it was apparently banned to the author, it is rather an account (sometimes very funny, sometimes ironic) how a Westerner perceives the country confronting his values and way of life with a different approach and reality. The form of a graphic novel was also excellent choice - pictures are superb. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars required reading for everyone 27 May 2010
By david
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By F Henwood TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting reading
Interesting reading. It gives you an idea of what's going on in North Korea. I was pleased to read about Delisle's experience, though it took me a couple of hours to read the whole... Read more
Published 26 days ago by juan caballero
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Travel Stories!
Absolutely love this book! Guy Delisle's travel stories are always insightful and humorous, making this book a very enjoyable read!
Published 1 month ago by Evangeline
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and beautiful
Great book. Not very fast-paced nor filled with action. Very fit for right before bedtime reading. If you want to learn a lot about North Korea, this isn't the book for you. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mathias Nielsen
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insight
A fascinating travelogue into the world's most secretive state, albeit one now dated a good decade ago when Kim Jong Il still presided. Read more
Published 5 months ago by BookFiend
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not the best
I really enjoyed this as I really like Guy Delisle graphic novels and stories but I must admit that this wasn't my favourite. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Laura82
5.0 out of 5 stars A very true picture
I stayed in the same hotel as the author does in this pictorial account of his time working in North Korea. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Nick Hillman
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and interesting to read
I took this on holiday with me and it really is worth a read.

The drawings by Delisle are, as always, impeccable and humorous. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Thisismypenname
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding out about North Korea
Informative book, easily read, with humorous sketches by the author. A must for anyone wanting to know some of the truth!
Published 18 months ago by gailc8
3.0 out of 5 stars Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
This is a good book but if you want a more in depth study of North Korea and the life for the people there, you need to read something more substantial.
Published 19 months ago by Mrs. Yvonne P. Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars Pyongyang or how to make an animated series in North Korea
In this second autobigraphical graphic novel, Guy Delisle finally finds his graphic style and tells about working on an animated series that has been outsourced to North Korea. Read more
Published 20 months ago by EvanderJR
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