I discovered Guy Delisle in December when I saw one of his books on the library shelf. I had heard about his books earlier too but wasn’t so keen on picking one but then I saw a review which made me keep an eye for his books. If you did not know about his books, they are mostly travelogues from a city that he visits with his family. Some are about his solo trips too. They are graphic novels written with a lot of humor and some interesting insights into the place. I enjoyed every single one of his travelogues and I finished them back to back within a month’s span. His books are easy and approachable to even those (like me) who are not interested in politics. I stay far away from politics but it was nice to learn a bit about these troubled parts of the world. His books are like a tiny glimpse into a city and its people.
I got Jerusalem from library and devoured it. It helped me understand what Jerusalem is like a city and what the Jews-Arab conflict is like. This book is more like journal entries from a person who lived in Jerusalem for a year and nothing more than that. I mean, there was no structure to the narration – just haphazard entries with no relation to one another sometimes. But they were funny and also full of information about the place. I sometimes wished he would clearly say whether he was on the Arab side or the Jewish side as I would get confused as to what a settlement was and where exactly he was. He could have also given us some more history and information about the place or done some research probably as it would have helped us understand what was happening. But then, a book with lot of information would read like a book from a journalist and wouldn’t be so easy and approachable for those (like me) who are not that interested in world politics.
I was more interested in his book Pyongyang so I got it next. It ended up becoming my favorite book of his. This book is mostly about the author’s experiences in North Korea, a country which I have been fascinated with for a long time. I got more interested after watching the controversial movie “The interview” (with James Franco) which showed the other side of North Korea. In this book, you don’t really get to see the poor regions of the country as they are off limits for the foreigners so you only see tall buildings and a clean city. But the amount of brainwashing that’s done to the citizens and how they think their ruler is God can be seen throughout the book. The author even gives 1984 to read to a local guy and I couldn’t stop smiling at how appropriate that book was for the country. This book had some snippets about the history of the country which I found really interesting. Also how they think Americans are the reason for all their problems was funny. I liked this book even more than Jerusalem. To all those who are saying this book doesn’t give a good picture of the country, I think it cannot give since the author was not allowed to go wherever he pleases (the way he was in Jerusalem) and he was there for just 2 months which is not a long time to understand a country and its citizens. I loved this book and recommend it to anyone who is curious enough to learn more about this country. Also the book was pretty hilarious.
I then got his book Shenzhen about his trip to China. It was not as funny or interesting as his other books were but still it was good as I had never read any book about China before. It is the least interesting of his travel memoirs. He talks more about the cultural differences and being an Asian, I did not find anything weird since culturally, we are similar. Maybe to a westerner, these differences might sound interesting.
Finally, this month I read Burma Chronicles. I didn’t expect this book to be interesting as I didn’t know anything about Burma. But this ended up as my second favorite book by him after Pyongyang. There are some amazing accounts of his experience in Burma where he spent an year with his baby and girlfriend who worked for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Even though Burma is right next to India, I had no idea about the political climate in that country. When this book was written ‘the lady’ was still in house arrest and dictatorship was present (which no longer is the case). It was interesting to see how very similar to India, Burma is. The book was hilarious and fun to read but also enhanced my knowledge about Burma, Buddhism in that country – monks, pagodas etc.
I am finally done reading all his travelogues. I next plan to read his latest book – Hostage sometime soon.
Have you read anything by this author or any other travelogues that you enjoyed?