Saturday, February 19, 2011

Required reading for xenophobes (Books - The Arrival by Shaun Tan)

Shaun Tan, an Autstralian artist, and a prolific author of picture books, created The Arrival, a graphic novel which beautifully evokes the mystery, terror, and wonder of moving to a new country after having to leave the land of your origin due to persecution. The immigrant experience is ubiquitous to every family if you are American (or Australian, or Canadian) and not of an indigenous people, and in those countries, this means the majority of us. The book's sepia-toned illustrations combine the look of old photos and leather suitcases with a worn, warm sense that this story happened in the not-too-distant-past. It's Seussian cyberpunk machinery and musical instruments have a not-too-distant-in-the-future feel to them, as if to place the story out of time, reminding the reader that people are still immigrating and will continue to do so. The architecture has a place-less urban feel to it, so that this story is about anywhere. Most effective to the sense of mystery experienced by the are the strange animals and especially the fact that documents, signs, money, and newspapers are printed in an unfamiliar alphabet. This renders the story a completely graphic one for the reader not only because Shuan Tan writes graphic novels, but because the experience of the new arrival to a country where you don't know the language is disorientation. All of life must be experienced graphically, rather than via written or spoken language. The form of The Arrival is ideally suited to its content in creating not just a story, but an experience, one that is engaging, inventive, and touching. And it is a beautifully produced object to boot.

Every age in which countries experience strife, a certain part of the populace is going to blame what they lack on new arrivals and write laws to inconvenience them or build walls to keep them out. The Arrival should be required reading for them. Anyone want to purchase this book for a few folks down in Arizona?

1 comment:

Criticlasm said...

This looks really great. I'll have to check it out.