Valencia (EFE).- He planted a copy of ‘1984’ in North Korea, tried to explain French communism to a Chinese man in Shenzen and learned firsthand about the situation in Jerusalem and Burma, those are the kinds of things that the Canadian Guy Delisle recounts in his comics, mostly about travel, which he conceives of as “writing a long postcard to the family.”
This was revealed in an interview with EFE by the author of ‘Shenzen’, ‘Pyongyang’, ‘Crónicas de Jerusalén’ or ‘Crónicas burmesa’, who is participating until Sunday in the Valencia Comic Fair and who does not believe that what he is doing resembles journalism, because in his comics he talks about the everyday, “of his children or a car that breaks down.”
But Guy Delisle does recognize that there is a travel chronicle component, which he conceives as a “patchwork” of different scenes experienced, for example, in the first Chinese city that tried the market economy, in the capital of the hermetic North Korea or in a Burma that he got to know through NGOs.
“When I travel, I try to understand what is happening and I take notes, and when I return I read them again and decide whether to make a book or not,” he says, because there is not always a work after each trip: “If there is nothing interesting to talk about There is no comic.”
His notes, he says, are “like a diary but without literature”, just notes accompanied by some schematic drawing, because sometimes “it’s easier that way”: “One day we went to a restaurant where you had to choose the fish you wanted to eat in an aquarium, and some were already dead and floating; It is the type of thing that is easier to draw than to write to remember.
“I don’t think what I do is journalism, it’s more like writing a long postcard to my family to tell what I’ve experienced in a year in Jerusalem, in Burma”, considers the author. On the way back, “instead of telling them about the whole trip”, you can offer them a book.
Laughter betrays a good job
In his comics, even if they take place in conflict zones or serious topics are addressed, humor is always present, something that Guy Delisle assures is “natural” and that “hits” with his drawing style.
“I guess it’s because of who I am; I don’t think I could do it differently, because when I tell anecdotes and stories to my friends I try to make them laugh at the end, so when they do I know I’ve done a good job, and it’s the same with comics,” he says.
Neither in Pyongyang, nor in Burma, nor in Jerusalem does it seem that there is too much material for humor, but yes, he says, for a certain way of looking at cities and people, because “when you travel it is easier to notice things” and put the focus on “different exoticisms”, which come “not so much from the clash between cultures but from the difference between communities”.
Since Delisle was 20 years old, “the way people travel has changed”, especially with photos and social networks, something that did not happen to him when he visited China or Korea, when nobody was expecting to see anything in particular represented, because they were not tourist destinations that people knew about.
This was especially useful for him in Pyongyang, because “no one knows North Korea” and therefore he did not have to pay too much attention to the detail of the streets of the city, which, on the other hand, is “very easy to draw, very graphic” thanks to its brutalist architecture.
Freedom as a central theme
“When I make the books I have the impression that I am making the same trip for the second time but with the reader”, says Delisle, who puts the theme of freedom at the center of his trips, for having visited places where it is not guaranteed: “ Then you come home and you realize that with a passport you can visit all of Europe.”
Freedom is also the central theme of ‘Escape’, another of his books, in which he tells the story of the kidnapping of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid worker Christophe André.
“You wonder what you would do in a situation like that and it is impossible to answer,” he considers, but as a result of that book he wrote “a memorandum” to himself: “If they kidnap you, do not try to escape, they will surely end up finding you.”
Parenthood, another journey
But Delisle’s best-known works, especially in the French-speaking world, are his four volumes of ‘Guide to the bad father’, where he recounts the upbringing of his children in a humorous tone.
“Being a father is everything at the same time, it’s fun and tedious at the same time,” he stresses, adding that recounting that experience “is like traveling, only without talking about geography or politics but about day-to-day life.”
He especially likes what it meant to “work with small details that are around, with small observations”, although now his children, aged 16 and 19, “have lost the cute part” and have been left “without a source”.
His own adolescence was also material for his latest comic, ‘Crónicas de juventud’, about the three summers he spent in his city, working in a factory, the only one of his autobiographical volumes that he postponed “until after 50”, especially so as not to hurt his father with the description he makes of him, and which he could no longer read.
Now, Guy Delisle is working on the biography of a photographer from the beginning of the century and maybe he will turn to fiction one day, but what is clear to him is that he does not dream of making movies or anything else”. “For me -he says-, the comic is an extraordinary way of expressing the narrative, the comic is my medium and I don’t dream of another”.