Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea


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The perennial graphic novel about a “hermit country,” with a new cover and an introduction by Gore Verbinski

Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea is the graphic novel that made his career, an international bestseller for more than ten years. Delisle became one of the few Westerners to be allowed access to the fortress-like country when he was working in animation for a French company.

While living in the nation’s capital for two months on a work visa, Delisle observed everything he was allowed to see of the culture and lives of the few North Koreans he encountered, bringing a sardonic and skeptical perspective on a place rife with propaganda. As a guide to the country, Delisle is a non-believer with a keen eye for the humor and tragedy of dictatorial whims, expressed in looming architecture and tiny, omnipresent photos of the president. The absurd vagaries of everyday life become fodder for a frustrated animator’s musings as boredom and censorship sink in. Delisle himself is the ideal foil for North Korean spin, the grumpy outsider who brought a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 with him into the totalitarian nation.

Pyongyang is an informative, personal, and accessible look at a dangerous and enigmatic country.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770463370
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 232,149
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

The award-winning cartoonist Guy Delisle is the author of the bestselling travelogues Shenzhen, Pyongyang, Burma Chronicles, and Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, for which he won the Fauve d’Or at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. His most recent book is Hostage, which details the kidnapping of a Doctors Without Borders employee and appeared on best-of-the-year lists from The Washington Post, NPR, Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, and more. Born in Québec in 1966, Delisle now lives in the south of France with his wife and two children.

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This guy clearly sees himself as a world traveller/raconteur rather than a smug dick, and is oddly confident we'll feel likewise. On the other hand, the fact that there's not much in this book besides "and then a North Korean said something stupid, and then I laughed" does kind of get across the emptiness of Choson life, doesn't it, whether it's the empty tedium of the expat or the empty belly and empty heart of the locals. (Great Successor Kim Jong Un, may your reign last a thousand years if against all our assumptions you turn out to be the guy to change that!)
biblyotekerin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book. Humor may be the only way to deal with living in North Korea either as a foreigner or a native. Mr. Delisle's response to the bizarro world he found himself in as an animator was to illustrate the perplixities inherent in life there. Forbidden to travel without a guide, he nonetheless found ways to circumvent this rule on occasion. But even with his guide in tow, or maybe even especially so, he had plenty of other-worldly experiences of the kind only available in a county which seems to exist only to venerate their leaders. His well-drawn, cartoon style illustrations offer a perfect anti-dote the singularly repressive existance of the North Koreans.
Tinwara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting account of the author's two month stay in North Korea as an expat for an animation company. As the country is so closed to outsiders any account of the inside gives new views. However, in North Korea, even as an outsider travels in, he can only touch the outside of the inside. Because contact with the general population is not allowed, except for the usual official guides, drivers and translators, designated to the foreigner by the regime. So logically, the foreigner will not get in touch with anyone thinking differently, and even if he does, he will never know, because these persons will not speak freely. The author clearly got frustrated, and describes his stay with sarcasm. Sometimes that works out funny, at other times I honestly thought that the author was a very obnoxious overconfident typical westerner, just kicking against what is different with complete lack of empathy. In the end, this very much remains the story of a (rather typical) expat in North Korea. I must admit that I was a little disappointed about that.
bookczuk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once again, without Stanford, I probably would never have picked up this book. As it was, I had to resort (with thanks and gratitude for the existence of the program) to inter-library loan to get a copy. This graphic novel is an account of the author's time in North Korea, working on an animation project there.The very nature of a graphic novel means that some things will be abbreviated more than might be in a more traditional format. To my mind, the graphic format fit very well for portraying the curtailed interaction Delisle was allowed to have in Pyongyang. His observations allowed the reader to both glimpse what life was like outside his circumscribed world, and at the same time, allowed insight into how foreigners are kept separate from the majority of North Korea. His experiences were portrayed with humor and clarity. I still know woefully little about North Korea (besides what can be gleaned from our news media), but this gave me a different perspective of that society (and very timely after recent regieme changes). Loved that he brought 1984 with him to read.One thing that was curious, and showed my American mindset, is that because the novel was written in English, though the author is French, every time there were reference to the evil America, I had to stop and remind myself that the author's reference point was not American. I've not had that problem with other translated novels, or novels written in English by non-Americans, so I wonder what about the author's style, or the graphic format made my mind work that way.
jentifer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Guy is a Canadian animator who often travels to Asia to work for various companies. This is one of the graphic novels he decided to write, chronicling the cultural and social aspects of living as a working visitor for weeks or months at a time in distinctly foreign country. Pyongyang was particularly interesting since it gives you glimpses of the elusive and secretive North Korea. I'm still not sold 100% on Guy's voice as a storyteller (or maybe it's him as a character in his own story?) but the content is by nature totally compelling.
Lisatron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This humorous travelogue is about cartoonist Guy Delisle's experiences in the enigmatic country of North Korea, where the French animation company he works for has offices. Just what kind of country the author is entering becomes apparent on the first page, which shows his bag being checked by a security guard who has to ask him about its contents, such as what kind of book he has in his bag and what kind of music is in his CD player, as he nervously gives his explanation. The author not only describes the strict security measures in place, like the need for his translator and guide to accompany him everywhere, but also the various oddities of the country, many of which indicate that much of what the author sees in Pyongang is a facade. So much politically can be said about North Korea and Delisle has some opportunity to do just that, but most of the book is just about day-to-day occurrences that show how an average guy would experience a bizarre country like North Korea. As travelogues in graphic novel formats go, this book is a must-read.
birksland on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As much a news report as a graphic novel. Probably the only way to get a visual understanding of the North Korean world. This concept should be used with other "closed" countries and/or areas.
dr_zirk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Guy Delisle's Pyongyang wonderfully captures the experience of a short-term visitor to the capital of the "hermit kingdom". Delisle presents the People's Republic of Korea as a sort of inverted Disneyland, lacking the cute anthropomorphic characters and functional infrastructure that make The Mouse a more hospitable host.Delisle's simple, cartoony drawing style is entirely appropriate for depicting the strange, crumbling wonders that surround him in Pyongyang. The city itself ultimately gives off the feeling of a film set, with expansive modern facades disguising the emptiness within. Delisle faces the usual problems of an expatriate worker who is culturally and linguistically isolated in his daily environment, and yet he allows his curiosity and his sense of humor to make the journey more interesting, if not entirely pleasant.Pyongyang strikes me as a sister volume to Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, with the major difference being that Satrapi is intimately involved with the culture that she depicts, while Delisle is the consummate outsider. Nonetheless, Delisle's may yet be the better work, since he is a highly effective mirror of all the strangeness that surrounds him in Pyongyang, and thus his story is all the more odd and compelling at the same time.
gregtmills on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Guy Delisle does a good job of being funny without lessening the grim absurdity of Pyongyang. He also does an admirable job of providing a gentle and sympathetic portrait of the poor saps who live and suffer in Pyongyang.
saltypuppy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating and easily read in one day. Graphic novels are a fabulous way to synthesize facts, stories, and humor.
jopearson56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, a new experience. I read this book as it was recommended as a staff pick at work by a respected colleague. My first experience with a graphic novel. Really, quite interesting. I rather liked the animation and the story was very interesting, a quite depressing story of life in North Korea. But I wouldn't have gotten this story anywhere else, certainly.
keristars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was whimsy that had me pick up and read Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea ahead of all the other books on my reading list, including those I'm currently working through. I can't say exactly why I decided to read it, and now that I've read it (and in a single session, too!), I can't really pinpoint why I enjoyed it or what made it so appealing.The topic of the book is really quite grim: Delisle describes the North Korea he experienced while in Pyongyang for two months on assignment for his work as an animator. The style of the art and the little asides he inserts into the narrative lighten the mood a bit - there is plenty of humor, both situational and tongue-in-cheek about the Great Leader and his propaganda. Even so, the whole place is grim and dreary and a bit absurd, which Delisle doesn't shy from pointing out when describing the great monuments of the regime.At first, I found it a bit difficult to read because of sudden shifts in scene without very clear changes, or topics without clear markers of what they are or how they came about. As I progressed through the book, though, I got used to Delisle's storytelling and didn't find it so bothersome. I noticed that the pages have a similar cadence to someone telling a story orally, rather than written.To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what Pyongyang tells about North Korea that other reports don't tell, though it does so through the lens of an animator rather than a journalist or humanitarian or diplomat. But I feel that I know dreadfully little about North Korea, and I appreciated being able to bolster what I know with the illustrations. Pyongyang probably can't compare to the popular Nothing to Envy, but it has its place and is worth a look.
artlibby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humor accompanies the tragic modern day observations of North Korea in this memoir. Western readers will get a rare first hand account of the day to day operations of the citizenry as experienced by a cartoonist on a work visa. The author uses the novel 1984 as an appropriate backdrop to his adventure abroad, and presents his memoir in the fashion he is most comfortable with: a graphic novel. The visual language of the drawings create a mood of loneliness and rigidity that tell a heavier story than the words that populate the panels. The subjective nature of the personal insights highlight the need for further factual readings about North Korean society, and high school librarians should plan accordingly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very different (and interesting) look at life in North Korea from the perspective of a foreigner who does not visit by his own free will, but as an employee of an animation company. Often very tongue-in-cheek, the work is a very fast read. Anyone who is interested by the Hermit Kingdom should read this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago