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Chroniques birmanes by Guy Delisle
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Chroniques birmanes (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Guy Delisle

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4903520,897 (4.07)42
Member:SGallay
Title:Chroniques birmanes
Authors:Guy Delisle
Info:Delcourt (2007), Edition: DELCOURT, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:voyage, Birmanie, Myanmar, bande dessinée

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Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle (2007)

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English (28)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
A memoir in cartoons of a year spent in Burma in 2005, where his wife was working with MSF France. Some vignettes are totally personal and non-political (at the very beginning, his sticking airport luggage stickers over electrical outlets so his toddler son won't stick his fingers in them; later, coming across pop tarts in a supermarket and remembering the joys of searing your tongue on them, fresh from the toaster), others touch on the repressiveness of the regime there (as when one of the members of his informal animation tutorial has to stop coming once Guy's name and picture are featured in an article (in a non-Burmese paper, but still) critical of the regime. I was very moved by some of the vignettes--for example, his wife rushing to find jobs for all the local people MSF France has employed, when the organization decides to pull out, and his creation of a book for HIV-positive children to get them to help their parents remember to give them their antiretroviral each day. The art also really evokes a sense of place; I especially noticed how his representation of shadows made me aware of the heat of the place. Nice book.

ETA: I went to the author's website to ask if Millie's Angels, the book for HIV positive children, was available at all. He replied that he had only one copy, himself, and that he didn't think it had even been reprinted in Burma. As a result of going to his website, though, I did get another book of his, A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting, which was great. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
A memoir in cartoons of a year spent in Burma in 2005, where his wife was working with MSF France. Some vignettes are totally personal and non-political (at the very beginning, his sticking airport luggage stickers over electrical outlets so his toddler son won't stick his fingers in them; later, coming across pop tarts in a supermarket and remembering the joys of searing your tongue on them, fresh from the toaster), others touch on the repressiveness of the regime there (as when one of the members of his informal animation tutorial has to stop coming once Guy's name and picture are featured in an article (in a non-Burmese paper, but still) critical of the regime. I was very moved by some of the vignettes--for example, his wife rushing to find jobs for all the local people MSF France has employed, when the organization decides to pull out, and his creation of a book for HIV-positive children to get them to help their parents remember to give them their antiretroviral each day. The art also really evokes a sense of place; I especially noticed how his representation of shadows made me aware of the heat of the place. Nice book.

ETA: I went to the author's website to ask if Millie's Angels, the book for HIV positive children, was available at all. He replied that he had only one copy, himself, and that he didn't think it had even been reprinted in Burma. As a result of going to his website, though, I did get another book of his, A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting, which was great. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
A totally missed opportunity. The author is a boring schlub who focuses obsessively on himself and his inability to be comfortable in one of the most repressive places on earth. He doesn't develop one bit as a result of his experiences, so why should we care? Just turning his gaze on the place and letting it tell its story would have been the way to go, but he writes himself into every scene. What a waste of time and energy. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |

Burma is an isolated country in Southeast Asia, second in its secrecy only to North Korea. Ruled since the early 1960s by a repressive military regime, it is a country whose citizens are controlled through fear and censorship. It is also a country where 87% of the population is Buddhist, and Buddhism very much permeates daily life, providing an essential lens through which people view their individual situations.

Guy Delisle is a cartoonist who comes to live in Burma for a year because his wife works for Médecins Sans Frontières (aka Doctors Without Borders), a humanitarian aid NGO specializing in providing free medical treatment to people living in conflict areas. The couple have a young son, a toddler named Louis, and Guy is a stay-at-home dad in addition to his cartooning work.

The book is laid out in a series of short stories and vignettes focusing on experiences Guy has as he grows accustomed to life in Burma. The absurdities, injustices, and tragedies that the Burmese citizens endure on a daily basis are gradually revealed as Guy himself struggles with adjusting to a level of comfort below his first world expectations. While it's easy to target Guy's complaints as petty in contrast to the experiences of the Burmese around him, this contrast feels true and accurate, and does not detract from the portrait of the Burmese as a humble, generous, and intelligent people that emerges throughout the text. There is also the consideration that while this book is based on Delisle's experiences, the character of Guy is not necessarily a direct portrayal of the author and should not be judged as such (see: biographical fallacy, the most common pitfall I've found while surveying negative criticism of this and other similar travelogue books by Delisle). This character likely does not represent a single, actual person, but rather is an amalgamation of viewpoints, stereotypes, and anecdotes that Delisle has encountered during his travels. As such, this character can be read as more of a commentary on prevalent attitudes and impressions of Westerners toward developing countries and their citizens (in this case, Burmese people), as well as on the behavior of many Westerners when visiting said countries.

What is strange is the rather flat portrayal of Guy's wife Nadège. While it's possible she did not want to play much of a role in the book or Delisle did not want her to for some reason, her presence as a background figure with little personality still feels off. Likewise is the erratic inclusion of Guy's son in the book. Given that Guy is the primary caregiver during this period, it's odd that there are many stories where Louis does not appear at all. But these irregularites also underline the fact that this book is not so much a memoir as it is a collection of somewhat random anecdotes, often ending with a kitschy final panel, interspersed with a few longer, more serious stories. One of the more poignant of the latter comes near the end of Guy's time in Burma, when he undertakes a three-day meditation retreat at a Buddhist temple. This was one of the best stories and a fitting way to close out the book.

Overall, the book offers a small piece of the intriguing puzzle that is Burma, although it is of course much less about everyday life in Burma for a Burmese person than it is about the life of an ex-pat, living in the VIP area of the capital and enjoying the relative perks of the ex-pat lifestyle. Along with that, readers get an insider portrayal of and light commentary on the foreign diplomat/NGO/humanitarian aid community that exists in virtually every developing country around the world. With casual finesse, Delisle manages to capture the stark dichotomy that often characterizes this community, where in certain cases it is questionable how much is actually getting accomplished and at what expense.

( )
  S.D. | Apr 5, 2014 |
On par with chronicles of the holy city. ( )
  questbird | Feb 6, 2014 |
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Guy Delisleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dascher, HelgeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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En? Waar sturen ze ons naartoe?
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original title: Chroniques Birmanes
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In this country notorious for its use of concealment and isolation as social control - where scissors-wielding censors monitor the papers, the de facto leader of the opposition has been under decade-long house arrest, insurgent-controlled regions are effectively cut off from the world, and rumour is the most reliable source current information - he turns his gaze to the everyday for a sense of the bigger picture.Delisle's deft and recognisable renderings take note of almsgiving rituals, daylong power-cuts and rampant heroin use in outlying regions, in this place where catastrophic mismanagement and ironhanded rule come up against profound resilience of spirit, expatriate life ambles along, and non-governmental organisations struggle with the risk of co-option by the military junta. "The Burma Chronicles" is drawn with a minimal line, and interspersed with wordless vignettes and moments of Delisle's distinctive slapstick humour.… (more)

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