This review of a delightful graphic novel, Shenzen, never made it into the magazine that assigned it:
In Shenzen, Guy Delisle introduces a new Kafkesque anti-hero for the globalized age: a company rep sent abroad to manage subcontractors. Boredom ensues – as do daily comedies over food and customs and strange English, and did we mention the boredom? In 1997 Delisle spent three months in China, in the industrial city of Shenzen (where else?) overseeing animators of a French cartoon series, Papyrus. He turns his eye to the absurdities of his alienation as well as those of the people he meets, and he slyly fools around drawing Chinese characters by turning them into visual gibberish – so the reader can share his experience of not being able to read or speak. And boredom? “In a comic book it turns out to be funny, because the reader can turn the page,” Delisle says. The French artist is perhaps better known for Pyongyang, his graphic novel based on a bad time in another Asian country, so fans will enjoy Shenzen, which was published earlier, in French in 2000, and appears now in English for the first time. Delisle is now working on a book about a year living in Burma. “If I had had a really good time in Shenzen, going to parties, I don’t think I would have done a book about it,” he says.