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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Reader's Diary #1456- Riad Sattouf: The Arab of the Future

For this white North American male, Riad Sattouf's The Arab of the Future is a difficult book to discuss publicly. To be clear, Sattouf's memories of Libya and Syria from  the late 70s early 80s are not particularly flattering of either place. They come across as dirty, violent, backward, anti-Semitic, homophobic, and misogynistic just as starters. To say that I enjoyed the book: does this imply that I necessarily believe him? Or worst, than I'm racist towards Arabs?

I will say that I think the book accurately reflects what Sattouf has taken away from his experiences and I believe it to be honest in that way. I'll also point out the discord between the text and visuals. For most episodes, even the appalling ones, Riad depicts his childhood self as grinning and pretty nonchalant toward the whole thing (an exception comes later in the book when he becomes more scared of personal injury), but it is pretty evident that this is the 30 year old Parisian self writing it, revaluing and interpreting events from an altogether different perspective.

On those notes, and even because of any discomfort I might feel toward discussing it, I quite enjoyed this book. It's challenging philosophically but in all the ways a book should be.

It's not particularly challenging from a purely literary approach as the cartooning is simple and expressive. One minor difficulty I had was with the use of colours. For the most part panels are monochromatic with different locales taking on a different pastel. It was interesting to look at, for sure, but I found myself wondering if Sattouf had intended readers to draw more meaning than simply a change in geography.

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