I first heard of cartoonist Guy Delisle from what I remember as rave reviews of his previous book Pyongyang. I had every intention of picking that one up while visiting the Drawn & Quarterly bookstore, but it got put back on the shelf when I approached the register with more books than I could reasonably carry back home on an airplane. I forgot about it until I came across DeLisle’s latest, Burma Chronicles, which is what I ended up reading instead. These kind of well-planned book acquisitions happen to me all the time. Luckily, Burma Chronicles is every bit as good as I remember reading that Pyongyang was. If memory serves.
Delisle is an interesting guy. He’s a professional cartoonist, which is interesting in of itself (to me). His wife works for Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders). Also an interesting gig. When his wife is assigned to a new post in Asia, Delislse joins her as a stay at home dad for with their infant son. In Burma Chronicles, Delisle has assembled a travelogue of an everyman’s daily life in the surreal and unique world of Burma.
Burma is officially known as Myanmar, but the U.S. and other countries refuse to acknowledge the name change since they don’t officially recognize the legitimacy of the government that changed the name. Devout Buddhists and monks, military police, a diverse foreign community, and the “world’s most famous political prisoner” are within a short walk with a stroller of Delisle’s temporary home in Rangoon, which was the capital of Burma until the government inexplicably decided to suddenly move all government operations out of the city to a new capital.Aung San Suu Kyi, the “world’s most famous political prisoner”
Delisle’s drawing style is deceptive. It appears simple, yet somehow entirely conveys a sense of place and culture that always serves the story being told. It shows remarkable restraint. Similarly, the stories conveyed are often simple one or two page vignettes of various scenes encountered over his stay in Burma. However, they manage to convey a rich picture of a difficult to understand country when taken together as a whole. I learned quite a bit about a country I knew very little about. Burma Chronicles is an entertaining read and worth your time. Like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Burma Chonicles is a perfect “gateway comic” for people who don’t read comics.