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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea Paperback – Mar 31 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly; 1 edition (March 31 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897299214
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897299210
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In 2001, French-Canadian cartoonist Delisle traveled to North Korea on a work visa to supervise the animation of a children's cartoon show for two months. While there, he got a rare chance to observe firsthand one of the last remaining totalitarian Communist societies. He also got crappy ice cream, a barrage of propaganda and a chance to fly paper airplanes out of his 15th-floor hotel window. Combining a gift for anecdote and an ear for absurd dialogue, Delisle's retelling of his adventures makes a gently humorous counterpoint to the daily news stories about the axis of evil, a Lost in Translation for the Communist world. Delisle shifts between accounts of his work as an animator and life as a visitor in a country where all foreigners take up only two floors of a 50-story hotel. Delisle's simple but expressive art works well with his account, humanizing the few North Koreans he gets to know (including "Comrade Guide" and "Comrade Translator"), and facilitating digressions into North Korean history and various bizarre happenings involving brandy and bear cubs. Pyongyang will appeal to multiple audiences: current events buffs, Persepolis fans and those who just love a good yarn. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Pyongyang documents the two months French animator Delisle spent overseeing cartoon production in North Korea, where his movements were constantly monitored by a translator and a guide, who together could limit his activities but couldn't restrict his observations. He records everything from the omnipresent statues and portraits of dictators Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il to the brainwashed obedience of the citizens. Rather than conveying his disorientation through convoluted visual devices, Delisle uses a straightforward Eurocartoon approach that matter-of-factly depicts the mundane absurdities he faced every day. The gray tones and unembellished drawings reflect the grim drabness and the sterility of a totalitarian society. Delisle finds black comedy in the place, though, and makes small efforts at subversion by cracking jokes that go over the humorless translator's head and lending the guide a copy of 1984. Despite such humor, which made his sojourn bearable and overcame his alienation and boredom, Delisle maintains empathy. Viewing an eight-year-old accordion prodigy's robotic concert performance, he thinks, "It's all so cold . . and sad. I could cry." Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Delisle's graphic novel is a well made and informed piece of work. It is regrettably short (as most graphic novels are because the pages fly by), but worth the read. If however, you are quite familiar with North Korean society already, this work won't add too much to your understanding of the place except for an interesting account of an animator working there. All the descriptions of stone faced traffic directors and smiling children performing in unison are not new. In sum, the book is a good introduction to the country, and to someone familiar the book is, as a personal account, still valuable, .
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Format: Paperback
Pyongyang is a simultaneously funny, sad and engaging story. The artwork is wonderfully simple and and evocative of the grim country, but it's well balanced by the informed and witty commentary.

The one negative review here faults the book for its attitude and lack of objectivity, but misses an important point: Delisle isn't a journalist. He's just a person there observing. There are plenty of good serious books about North Korea (Bruce Cuming's North Korea is a great short introduction), but Pyongyang is a regular man's view. A poignant and very funny view.
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By M. Elaine Hamilton on Feb. 11 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very witty and essential reading for anyone and in particular for those visiting the DPRK. He is his own pun and this makes it charming.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Craig Rowland on April 14 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For the past two nights I have had dreams about North Korea. I don't recall ever having had a recurring dream. I never dreamt about the North during the early part of this year when I read one book after another about the DPRK. I wonder what tonight's dream will be about, considering I have just finished Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, a graphic novel by Guy Delisle (translated by Helge Dascher). Pyongyang is the first work of graphic fiction I have read. It is classed as a novel but it reflects Delisle's own two-month stay in the North Korean capital where he worked for a French animation company.

Delisle's observations and frustrations in having to deal with North Korean bureaucracy made for a hilarious read. Although Delisle is in the country on a two-month work contract, he is still led by guides everywhere. Guest workers, like tourists, must pay their reverential respect at all North Korean monuments and propaganda museums in addition to working at their job six days a week. Delisle is given the propaganda tour and he depicts himself in some drawings as barely able to contain his laughter. He expresses his frustration at not being able to find a decent cup of coffee in the whole country. I know what I have in store yet I will be prepared in that at least I have the foreknowledge to bring my own, albeit inferior, instant coffee when compared to brewed, from home when I travel there.

The drawings were made with a variety of perspectives which I admired and enjoyed. In the midst of his adventures working with westerners and North Koreans at the animation studio, Delisle inserts a running joke in the form of a police line-up in which he asks the reader "Can You Spot the Traitors?".
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