Guy Delisle’s SHENZHEN reviewed in Booklist

Booklist Review - Shenzhen

Booklist     |    Gordon Flagg    |    August 17, 2006

Delisle, Guy. Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China. Tr. by Helge Dascher.
Sept. 2006. 152p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (1-894937-79-1). 741.5.

Delisle’s Pyongyang (2005) documented two months spent overseeing cartoon production in North Korea’s capital. Now he recounts a 1997 stint in the Chinese boomtown Shenzhen. Even a decade ago, China showed signs of westernization, at least in Special Economic Zones such as Shenzhen, where Delisle found a Hard Rock Café and a Gold’s Gym. Still, he experienced near-constant alienation. The absence of other westerners and bilingual Chinese left him unable to ask about baffling cultural differences ranging from exotic shops to the pervasive lack of sanitation. Because China is an authoritarian, not totalitarian, state, and Delisle escaped the oppressive atmosphere with a getaway to nearby Hong Kong, whose relative familiarity gave him “reverse culture shock,” Delisle’s wittily empathetic depiction of the Western-Chinese cultural gap is less dramatic than that of his Korean sojourn. That said, his creative skill suggests that the comic strip is the ideal medium for such an account. His wry drawings and clever storytelling convey his experiences far more effectively than one imagines a travel journal or film documentary would.

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