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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea [Paperback]

Guy Delisle
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 16.95
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Book Description

March 31 2007
Voted "Best of" by CBC Radio One's "Talking Books," the American Library Association and Time.com.

More timely than ever, Guy Delisle's acclaimed Pyongyang is a glimpse into one of the most secretive and mysterious nations in the world today: North Korea. Pyongyang is a graphical record of the time cartoonist Guy Delisle spent working as an animator in Pyongyang, becoming one of the few Westerners to witness current conditions in the surreal showcase city.

"The memoir is topical, coming at a time when interest in the goings-on behind the last remaining panel of the Iron Curtain is high. [...] The episodes are smart, sharply observed and funny, without downplaying the untold horrors (death camps, starvation) that lurk around every corner." (Globe and Mail)

"Tinged with black humour, ...[Pyongyang] offers a perspective no straight-up print journalism could." (National Post)

Frequently Bought Together

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea + Shenzhen + Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Price For All Three: CDN$ 38.67


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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

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent: funny, dark, sad and informative March 25 2014
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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4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining introduction to North Korea Aug. 30 2013
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Journey 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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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot of fun! Oct. 22 2006
Format:Hardcover
I first read this book last winter and had an awesomely fun time reading it and recently half read it looking over the shoulder of my wife as she read it for the first time in bed. I have traveled a bit in my life and had been to totalitarian states like Syria, East Germany and the Soviet Union so many of the physical monstrosities rang familiar. However, even in those places I didn't meet the "I love this kool-aid the dear leader allows us to drink" mentality that he ran into in NK. Unlike the other reviewer of this book, I appreciated the perspective of someone working in another country as opposed to someone just passing through. Where the previous reviewer was upset about him trying to control his laughter at the friendship museum, I too could barely contain my laughter reading those scenes. Comparing his "true believer" handlers to "over zealous soccer fans" is incredibly inappropriate. Are lunatic cults limited to other cultures? Of course not. We have plenty of our own. This should be read as someone's travelogue... a travel log doesn't necessarily have profound insights on every page... It's a fun book plain and simple. If you are looking for "Focult in North Korea" no, its not for you, but if you want a really fun and interesting read this book is for you!
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