Friday, May 21, 2010

Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China

The second illustrated travelogue from Guy Delisle, Shenzhen is a record of the artist/animator's trip to the large Chinese city neighboring Hong Kong. Shenzhen is a growing metropolis that attracts many people looking for employment and opportunity, and Delisle was there for three months in the late 1990s to supervise a team of animators. Delisle's descriptions of the city are sometimes harsh, pointing out the filth and omnipresence of government propaganda, but they also include very human observations about local food, entertainment, and constant construction projects. One of the overwhelming feelings the reader gets from his accounts is that he felt pretty isolated and lonely in China.

As I noted in my entry on Pyongyang, Delisle is an illustrator and animator who travels the globe for his work and also to accompany his wife who is involved in Doctors without Borders, so he gets around to some very interesting places. He is a Canadian and his primary language, as you can tell from his blog, is French. This interview sheds some more light on Delisle's feelings on his trips to China and some of the decisions he made in creating this travelogue.

Shenzhen is generally well regarded, and it was nominated for a Wright Award for Best Book in 2007. Paul Karl Lukacs writes a thoughtful review of the book and also notes that he had very different experiences and that Shenzhen has undergone large changes since Delisle's time there. Renee, President and Publisher of Shen's Books, called it very realistic and felt Delisle's experiences were very similar to her own. Reviewer Danya David says that despite its flaws, Shenzhen is a "fast and interesting read" and suggests it may be a good addition to an 11th or 12th grade history or government class.

A preview is available from the publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

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