“Burma Chronicles” by Guy Delisle (2007) comic review – graphic novel recommendations


[Book cover of graphic novel “Burma Chronicles” by Guy Delisle (2007) – comic review from comics recommendation list]The first book I’d like to discuss isBurma Chroniclesby Guy Delisle. Guy is known for his travelogue comics that document him living in foreign countries for a period of time. Most people seem to recommend his bookPyongyang, which is about his time living in North Korea in 2003. And whilst I like that one, the book of his that I like the best isBurma Chronicles. Guy visited Burma in 2005, because his wife works for Doctors Without Borders, and she was posted to Burma as part of her aid work. And I think that this is one of the reasons why I likeBurma Chroniclesmore thanPyongyang. Because, inPyongyang, Guy was visiting North Korea as a single guy. Whereas, inBurma Chronicles, we see how Guy also has to be a husband, and a father to his baby son. The book is structured as a lot of little vignettes, that show various aspects of his life as an ex-pat visiting a developing country. And seeing everything with fresh eyes. There are sections of the book that cover everything from house-hunting on the Burmese real estate market, dealing with the intense tropical heat – as well as the frequent blackouts that kill the lights and the air conditioning. But, as well as these domestic things, he does a good job of explaining the political reality of life under a military dictatorship. So he talks about the way that the magazines that are sold in Burma are censored. So, it’s actually someone’s job to sit down with a pair of scissors, and cut individual columns from magazine pages. He talks about the country’s then-opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, being under house arrest, and living in his neighbourhood. He talks about the snap decision that the Burmese government made to move the country’s administration to a new capital city, with just 24 hours notice. Now, let’s talk about the artwork – because I can’t stress enough how jealous I am of Guy’s artwork. It’s so deceptively simple, with a sketchy feel to it. But I find it so effective for conveying his whimsical storytelling style. And I particularly like the colours in the book. Or – should I say – the shading – that gives a real depth to the artwork. I mean, check out this little village in the rural part of Burma. Or this shady street in downtown Rangoon. It’s really nice stuff, seeing the contrast between the sunlight and the shadows. And it reminds me that cartoonists don’t have to be so pedantic about accuracy. Sometimes the sketchy stuff is more evocative than photo-realistic copies. So, check outBurma Chronicles, and then check out the rest of Guy Delisle’s work. And, I’ve got to admit that I’m only three books into his back-catalogue, myself![title music: “Bunny” by Screamfeeder]

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