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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 31 March 2014
This is my second graphic novel from Delisle and I wasn't disappointed. I love to follow his journey as a writer/dad/person throughout his travels.
It's really funny as he's character is so alive and vivid. It always makes me laugh to see how he draws himself because in reality he's better looking that his cartoon self :)
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on 23 September 2017
Interesting story about Myanmar under its dictatorship. Learned a lot about the state of the country. But I felt it was less entertaining then Jerusalem or his book about North Korea
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on 7 April 2017
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on 23 July 2009
A few years ago I went through a little graphic phase. After being enchanted by Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, a graphic novel which showed the literary possibilities of the form, I quickly happened upon a very different kind of graphic experience in the political travelogues of Joe Sacco. First published by Fantagraphics his series of strips on Palestine were collected together by Jonathan Cape and led me onto his travels into Bosnia and Sarajevo. I guess part of the appeal was to have an easily accessible format to get some basic education about the politics behind those particular areas of conflict (pictures, and everything), but there was also something I loved about the self-deprecating humour and those moments where the shock of reality cut through the page, literally in black and white.

Following in a similar vein Guy Delisle produced a book called Pyongyang, a unique depiction of life in that most secretive of states. Again using simple black and white illustrations Delisle employs a similar humorous approach. Sent to North Korea as part of his work with a French animation company he spends lonely nights in a hotel, wishing for better coffee and food, leading a curious existence as he is marshaled around areas that the government deems fit to see. Slowly he is able to see more of the hidden parts of the country, getting a better idea of the life of ordinary Koreans and the realities of being part of the 'Axis-of-Evil'. That work continued with a trip to Shenzhen in China and his latest travelogue comes from Burma (or Myanmar).

The slight difference with his latest book is that it is his partner's work with MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) that has brought them there along with their baby son Louis. For a young father like me there was so much that I found familiar from my own travels with tot that the opening few pages had me grinning in recognition. A simple hotel room becomes a gauntlet of power sockets, taps and sharp corners all of which seem to have been designed to tempt young children and torment their parents. Having finally baby-proofed the room he is able to wander the streets of another dictatorship, slowly adapting to custom and tradition. That wry humour is given ample room to entertain, the baffling nature of life in a foreign country somehow amplified by his duty of care to young Louis. The locals of course are charmed by the baby, totally ignoring his father (something I'm all too familiar with) as they pass the baby around.

Burma is of interest of course because it has been ruled by a military junta since 1962 and the leader of the opposition Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years. Delisle finds out that the house in which he is staying is literally around the corner from her own, and determines to make a daily pilgrimage to attempt to see her (foreigners are not allowed access to her street) allowing us to see how well he can combine the political and the domestic (the next day he is far too busy bathing his son).

The domestic side was of great appeal to me but for a general readership there are clear examples of the oppression which seems to arouse little protest only because that opposition is so effectively silenced. There is also something about the length of time that Delisle spends in each destination and the graphic form itself which makes it perfect for illustrating those simple details which may evade the casual traveller and yet prove to be emblematic of the country and its culture. His frustrating search for ink with which to make his drawings takes us on a wild goose chase through the local bazaars ending in a great panel, smudged and running, where he is forced to use the fountain pen ink he knew wouldn't work. The three days he spends inside a non-touristy Buddhist retreat give him an entirely new perspective (literally) on the buildings he has been looking in on for the preceding months. Through his regular walks through a park he sees a few prayer notes attached to a tree grow into many, and then a fully fledged shrine begins to develop. That public display of faith depicted in three simple panels.

Sometimes a light touch is all that is needed to expose the banality of life under oppression. The combination of the form, the content and the humour makes Delisle's work accessible and enjoyable but that lightness shouldn't mask the potential importance of them as documents. Through his short exchanges with locals and aid workers he often sums up in a few sentences the essence of the problem or hypocrisy. There's no substitute for the testimony of those living and working in any situation and it could be said that through his books Delisle is proving that old adage about the pen and the sword.
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on 23 March 2014
... this booklet by Your side...

Ok - everyone has to chant this little melody, an adaption of "If you're go'in to San Francisco, be sure to have a flower..etc..etc ..., BEFORE entering the nice country that is know known as Myanmar,
Because it will be the last happy melody to chant for the next time being.

So, here we have the known Cartoonist Guy Delisle, his beautiful Doctor Wife, working for MSF, and their son, Baby.
First they were bound - happily accepting - for Guatemala.
Then - a change - Guatemala is too dangerous - they will go to Myanmar...
A lot less dangerous???

So, after You have studied this book with all its ca 300 pages, You know all about Myanmar, aka Burma, and even more that You wanted ever to know about it!

I did not see this book - no page of it - as other than a secret love affair of the author with this oh soh "Land without Smiles" or "The Farest Place far away from Democracy", as it was known to my little self in July in 2012 - since then there went a lot of water down the Irrawaddy!

This book, designed and written by Guy Delisle is nothing else but a declaration of love!!! A love that took its time to sprout, to bloom, to make a full flower, and, maybe also a fruit.

I read other books by this author, Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Pjöngjang a travelogue from North Korea, but this one seems to be his most mature work.
Maybe also the family thing, that he has to do a part-time job with his son, the excursions they make together, lots of strange things to discover, makes it reasy for the reader to identify her-/himself with our good Guy. :)

OK, Guy Delisle: Father of the Year!

(PS: Review edited all over 23/3/2014)
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on 13 June 2017
The best Guy Delisle book in my opinion! Having been to Myanmar last year and then reading this one my return, it was like being sucked in through the pages and being there again. Vivid, funny and most of all seemingly accurate representation of Myanmar through a unique viewpoint. Brilliant.
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on 23 September 2014
If you've lived, or is living as an expat anywhere in the world, then get this.
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on 21 February 2012
Unusual but really excellent book for those about to travel to Burma, gives a flavour of the country with wit and humour, yet also sensible. My daughter finished it in one sitting and got a lot out of it.
Highly recommended.
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on 3 October 2015
First read his Shenzhen, thought it was brilliant. I am a graphic designer and had lived in China for many years. Delisle had captured 100% this city's spirit and its people. This book is sheer visual poetry, evoking all the senses of this city to come alive... like re-living my China days. Especially love his dark shadings and background textures...which he did himself. (In his later books someone else did the shadings.) They convey successfully that strange, annoying and noisy ambience of Shenzhen.

Then I read his Jerusalem. A bit disappointed. Obviously he did not put in as much effort and care into his drawing and it shows. Having 2 kids can really affect an artist's dedication. Understandable. He did a good job describing the political and social scenes, which I found fascinating. Learned a lot about this city.

Then I read his Burma Chronicles. Big let-down. Further decline in drawing quality. It's obvious he was putting less and less care into his drawings and just working to meet deadlines. The story is much less interesting. You come away feeling you have not learned that much about Burma. Like watching a really mediocre movie and afterwards you can't remember a thing about it. The printing quality is very poor. It's printed in India, and there is no solid black. The darkest is an uneven grey. Paper is too thin, kind of see-through.

Comic books is quite an expensive hobby but we love the feeling of holding a nice quality book in our hands. I felt cheated when I got this book.
I don't think I will buy Pyongyang. Don't want another let-down.
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on 1 June 2010
Another excellently drawn and narrated look at another Asian country. Touching, thought provoking, humorous. Further testimony to this guy's deep humanity and eagle eye. Don't miss it.
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