Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle

By Bill Kohlhaase

Posted December 3, 2008 in Arts & Culture

Life under military rule is an absurd mix of the comic and the tragic. Cartoonist Delisle, whose previous books document trips to North Korea and China, spent 14 months in Burma—now the self-proclaimed Myanmar—beginning in 2005. This simply drawn memoir accounts his days there while traveling with his wife, an administrator for Doctors Without Borders. Told with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, Delisle’s experiences contrast frustration and comedy as his family tries to establish day-to-day life in a country that even Kafka might not have imagined. His most frequent companion is his infant son Louis and the two spend their days searching for diapers and drawing ink, battling heat, and avoiding the inviting electrical outlets that function only hours a day. As he chronicles the mundane, Delisle presents the larger picture: insidious, low-tech censorship mostly enforced with scissors, the workings and frustrations of the aid organizations operating within the country and random disappearances. Like the vignettes themselves, Delisle’s drawing has a subtle way of creating detail even in its simplicity and directness. Part travelogue, part political tract, Burma is an eye-opening study of a durable people and their strangely convoluted culture.

–Bill Kohlhaase

Drawn and Quarterly, hardback, 270 pages, $19.95   


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