Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle

If you are an artist and you are attached to a mission of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in a Third World nation for over a year, how would you choose to tell your story? Cartoonist/animator Guy DeLisle chose to write and illustrate a graphic novel titled Burma Chronicles. In six panels to a page, he recounts his time in Myanmar taking care of his infant son while his physician wife Nadege went on medical missions out of the capital Yangon (formerly called Rangoon) into regions where rebels were trying to overthrow the dictatorship. Left in Yangon with his son and a housekeeper, Guy wandered the streets, made new friends, and tried to make sense of the Burmese culture. It was easy to be accepted as long as he had his child. Without him, he was little noticed.

Yangon proved to be a city in transition with big department stores and beggars on the streets, fast computers from Japan but unreliable electricity, many friendly people and ever-present uniformed military carrying weapons. Dogs nipped at Guy's heals as he rode his bike through the streets at night, coming home from another party at an embassy or headquarters of an NGO. He always hoped to find the air condition working in the little house that his family rented. The hot, humid night were almost unbearable for a Canadian.

Readers follow Guy everywhere he goes - famous temples, the Australian Club (where Guy goes swimming in the rain), and mansions where expatriates meet for play groups. They even gets to tag along on a couple of MSF missions to villages where regular medical care is nonexistent. Burma Chronicles is quirky, surprising, fascinating journey that you can find or order through your public library.

DeLisle, Guy. Burma Chronicles. Drawn and Quarterly, 2008. ISBN 9781897299500.

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