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Habibi by Craig Thompson

Habibi (edition 2011)

by Craig Thompson

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997618,585 (4.06)89
Authors:Craig Thompson
Info:Amsterdam Oog & Blik cop. 2011
Collections:strips, Read but unowned

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Habibi by Craig Thompson

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English (55)  French (2)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I've never read a graphic novel with this depth, the illustrations alone are works of art. ( )
  LJMax | Aug 21, 2015 |
This is an absolutely beautifully illustrated graphic novel. The artwork would easily merit five stars. But the story was rather confusing to say the least. The time line seemed rather disjointed - sometimes I felt like the setting was the 14th or 15th century and then suddenly there were trucks and factories in an urban setting. The individual drawings were framed in different styles and these differing borders gave clues as to whether the reader was in current time, observing a flashback, or even reading/seeing a story from the Quran. I do not think that this book would have universal appeal, but I found it worthwhile reading. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
This graphic novel was absolutely stunning! I feel like I need an entire novel to rave about the gorgeous and intricate illustrations. There are NO WORDS to describe how striking Thompson's illustrations are. Seriously, if there is a copy close by, or if you’re in a bookstore that has this book in stock, pick it up and just flip through it. Believe me the beauty will overwhelm you. Based on illustrations alone, this novel is a full 5 stars, no questions asked. The script of the Arabic, the designs in the borders, everything is just perfect.
The story of Dodala, Zam, and the hardships they face in their lives is nothing short of heart wrenching. When following their early lives in the desert, the desperation of their circumstances, and how they took care of each other was very captivating to read. My heart broke for Dodala and her need to use her body to take care of her and Zam, and I know this is a reality in so many parts of the world, but it was so shocking and powerful to see it drawn on the page in front of you. The inserts of the stories that Dodala told Zam were a beautiful addition, and they were beautifully drawn and interesting to read. You can really see how the stories are an escape for both Dodala and Zam and how important stories can be in a person's life.
Moving on to the time in the palace, I think this is where the book lost the half star from me, and I think it's purely because I am such a big baby :P The Sultan and his harem just didn't sit well with me and just seeing women as objects, used, abused and thrown away bothered me too much. Like I said before, I know this is reality, but it was hard for me to read. I loved the end of the novel, although there were some elements that upset me. Well, maybe not upset, but more like disappointed. I loved the explanation of the title that is in the last few pages and the promise and hope we find at the end of Dodala and Zam's story.
Overall, this was one of the most, if not THE most, powerful graphic novel I have ever read. Craig Thompson is truly talented, not only in his artwork, but in his storytelling. He has definitely earned his place on my shelf and Habibi has definitely earned a place among my favourite books. ( )
  ceecee83 | Jul 15, 2015 |
Habibi is the lengthy, lavishly drawn tale of a woman, Dodola, and Zam, the male slave boy she rescues when still a child herself. When they both escape from slavers, they are separated and must find their way back to each other - both losing, recovering, and reinventing their identities along the way. More than that, though, Dodola becomes a Scheherazade figure, telling stories that deftly interweave the origins of Islam and Christianity and uses her wits to survive.

The first thing to note is that Habibi contains some of the most beautiful artwork ever to grace a graphic novel. The panels themselves weave Arabic motifs in with the story, and a strong focus is put on flowing calligraphy. Some panels - not even the artwork itself, but just the design framing device, are so achingly beautiful that you could spend hours working out the intricate details of each swoop and curve.

The story itself is good, though I must admit that there were no lines that particularly stuck in my mind, and the length of the book weighs itself down.

Then there are the problems... Dodola is the victim of sexual violence from the very beginning, when she is married off at the age of nine to a husband. She then barters her body for food from caravaners, is kidnapped and forced to be a concubine for a sultan, and is raped numerous times throughout the story. While this in itself all serves the purpose of the story and never feels gratuitous or sexualized, Thompson does have an annoying habit of rarely showing Dodola clothed at all. Most of the scenes with her are her nude or partially nude - even when she isn't having sex. While this could be seen as an attempt to show how others see her, and her own cynical feelings toward her body and the way men desire her, it did feel a little gratuitous. Sexuality is problematic in this book, to say the least. Zam feels guilty because of his desire for Dodola, to the point of castrating himself in order to get rid of the feelings. In a telling scene near the end, where Dodola and Zam enter a Westernized city, she views women walking in high heels and short skirts, and removes her own headscarf with a victorious expression; a panel later, she passes some men who leer at her, and puts the scarf back on, covering her face.

The other problem is that Thompson seems to want to bring the fairy tale aspect to the fore - the Scheherazade reference, particularly, is in regards to the sultan giving her 70 days to entertain him each night, or else she dies - which works, but is later turned on its head toward the end with the Westernized, modern city right next to the backwards, barbaric sultan's city. The fairy tale also falters - the Scriptures quoted, the "fable" feeling of Dodola's clever way of tricking the sultan when he forces her to turn water into gold, all work to create a certain feel - but then some hint of modernity, either in the dialogue or references made - throws the reader out of that atmosphere. While there are some authors who I would trust to deftly juggle both - modern references have been used in fairy tales, and can work - the ones used here were too brief and sporadic to ever feel like it was contributing rather than destroying the atmosphere so lovingly built.

Despite these problems, I am still giving this three stars, because the artwork is so intricate, so detailed, so painstakingly inked, that it would be a shame to miss it. ( )
1 vote kittyjay | Apr 23, 2015 |
The illustrations are terrific; many make use of really lovely calligraphic Arabic. The world of the story occupies an indeterminate and shifting time - partly Arabian Nights, partly modern totalitarian petro-state. It's a problematic book, throwing around tropes from the Arabian Nights, even while explicitly acknowledging that the source material is racist and misogynist (and also, though this is not so explicit, Orientalist). The storyline argues that love, intimacy, and hope are possible even in a brutal world - but while the story condemns sexism, objectification, rape, and abuse, the book would be a lot less interesting to read if the illustrations didn't make the heroine into such a compelling sex object. Perhaps that's intended to make a point (for example, that the reader is no better than many of the characters in the story?), but it feels instead that the author is trying to have it both ways. Again, the illustrations are terrific. ( )
  bezoar44 | Mar 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
When I had finished reading Habibi, I thought, well, it's Orientalist, it's misogynist, but damn, he learned how to write Arabic calligraphy well. ... To my surprise, I discovered from reports of people who had seen Thompson read and discuss his work, that though he had learned the basics of the alphabet, the intricate calligraphy in the book was all traced from outside sources. ... But this is simply one more example of the shallowness that undergirds the entire work: a laudable impulse to learn more, to reverse prejudice, was followed by a lazy embrace of Burton over Said, of voyeurism over empowerment, and tracing over writing. Habibi is a beautiful book and a terrible book. I am grateful for how much it has offended me. I could almost burn it.
And that is Habibi’s ultimate strength. All its cleverness, all its density, all its intricacy, are brought together in the service of one simple but all-too-easily-forgotten point: There is no way through this life but with each other. That is the foundation for Thompson’s interlocking patterns, its self-evidence obscured from our view like the scratched-out shapes that form a letter. Thankfully we have a writer like Thompson around to focus our gaze.
added by Serviette | editNational Post, David Berry (Sep 23, 2011)
Habibi, which the eye perceives as a celebration of life force, settles in the mind as a campaign of punishment. Gaze upon its beauty and despair
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"Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth-- and frailty-- of their connection. At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling" -- dust jacket wrap.… (more)

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