Wednesday, July 29, 2015
PyongYang: a journey in North Korea, Guy Delisle
Delisle's art is so effective: peculiar, essential but very expressive. I also enjoyed some of the humor and seeing some of North Korea through the author's eyes.
"PyongYang: a journey in North Korea" is a diary - in graphic novel format - of a two months period when the author lived and worked in North Korea as Graphic Director of an animation team, employed by a French company. During his stay, Delisle stays at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, and visits other foreigners in the Koryo Hotel. Accompanied by his guide, he visits the massive statue of Kim Il-sung, the Pyongyang Metro, the legation quarter, the Diplomatic Club (former Romanian embassy), the Arch of Triumph, the Juche Tower, the International Friendship Exhibition, the USS Pueblo, the enormous Ryugyong Hotel, the Taekwondo Hall, the Children's Palace and the Museum of Imperialist Occupation.
If you, like me, know very little to nothing about North Korea, this book will shed some light on the basic facts, some of which might shock you. However, bear in mind that this novel is, at its core, a comedy, therefore nothing is taken seriously and, in the tradition of French comedy, the tone keeps shifting from the irreverent to the blatantly offensive.
There are some really funny moments. However, I did not like the author's attitude towards the locals. Too often he comes across as immature and disrespectful, for someone who is a guest in a foreign country (example: in the museum, when he says he would like to try some of that "torture" on his guide because she's so good looking. Or, the way he is poking fun at everyone as if they were not real people), and often as narrow-minded (example: "she decided to show me some example of their musical genius").
New Regency was working on a film version of Pyongyang, with Steve Conrad to write the script and Gore Verbinski to direct the film, and to star Steve Carell, but this was canceled in December 2014 in the wake of threats made by hackers believed to be tied to North Korea to movie theaters over the film The Interview, which mocks the North Korean regime. The film started pre-production in October 2014, and at the time of cancellation was still without a title. New Regency revealed that the scheduled distributor, Fox, pulled out after the incidents with The Interview.
Delisle does not expect to return to North Korea, writing: "I don't think I would be welcome there anymore."