The first story tackles the memories of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in France; the second story comments about 2005 Afghanistan from a young French cartoonist’s perspective.
This graphic novel was something I knew immediately that I would enjoy. It not only addresses something that piqued my curiosity, the personal story of Vietnamese refugees about their arrival in France and how they got there, but it does so in a very beautiful and contemplative way.
There is a long story of Vietnamese refugees in France; not only from the most familiar Vietnam-United States war but from way earlier: there were refugees that arrived in this European country even when Vietnam was a French colony known as Indochina.
The extraordinary accomplishment of Baloup is the way he focuses on refugees from different time periods and their forced absence from the land where they were born. What they all have in common is their nostalgia: they all left family behind, and many know that they survived when many of their relatives and friends did not. They all miss their homeland and their people.
And they kept quiet about the hardships they had experienced. Clément himself was surprised to find out that his father had fled the country and experienced many awful things. He casually mentioned some of his experiences about it one evening, while he was teaching him to cook.
After drawing the first story, Clément started searching: he wanted to hear more about his Vietnamese heritage, and he traveled around France to find and talk to different people. The way he did this, with respect and curiosity, and the result, are interesting to say the least: this graphic novel teaches us that no matter where we are, a war has influenced our heritage.
My own grandparents, for instance, are the first-born in Latin America, (I have Jewish and Arab heritage), and they had to adapt to harsh conditions in order to live here. They started families with local people and tried very hard to adapt to a new way of life.
Also, right now, we are experiencing a refugee crisis worldwide, with thousands of Syrian refugees having left their homes and their families, maybe forever.
This type of graphic novels help us talk about war and its consequences, they open roads of understanding, and I think they are very necessary indeed.
Publication date: April 16, 2018
This second graphic novel is somewhat war-themed but is far more satirical than Vietnamese Memories.
It is the first of two books about the experiences of Nicolas Wild in this country in 2005.
The first thing I had in mind with his style and experiences was Guy Delisle: here is another French cartoonist with a penchant for satire that was desperately in need of a job; and found himself drawing cartoons about the Afghan constitution in Kabul, a remote former war zone.
I could not tell you exactly why I find Delisle’s work more appealing than Wilde’s, perhaps it is because I fell in love of the way he portrayed Jerusalem and Pyongyang, perhaps because he is far more interested in facts about real life and politics wherever he goes… or because his sense of humor is more akin to me… I don’t know.
I think that what Wilde tries to accomplish here is far less about the country he is in but about his experiences there: his friends, his job and, the fears of his mother in France. (He even dresses up as a Taliban and takes a gun for a portrait to scare his relatives, so we know he just likes to horse around).
His drawing style is OK, his jokes are funny… he just seems too young to me. I wanted to learn more about Afghanistan, about the children, the food, the women… but Wilde is not interested.
I did enjoy his trip to the mountains of the giant Buddhas and his portraits of everyday life; however, I left longing for more: more information, more landscapes, and more details.
I just hope his second part can fill in the gaps. This graphic novel is available on Amazon.
Publication date: April 4, 2018