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Habibi Hardcover – September 20, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: Habibi
  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424144
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: Habibi is impressive to hold. It looks like a lost tome, recovered from a different time and place--a fitting package for a comic book that feels like an exotic, bizarre fairy tale. Craig Thompson's inkwork is bold yet intricate. Each page reveals a meticulous symmetry, both in art and narrative, that unravels a sweeping tale that takes readers from the dessert to an industrial wasteland to the inner walls of a harem. Thematically, there's no shortage of ambition here, as Thompson tackles familial and romantic love, one's relationship to their environment, the shared roots of Christianity and Islam, and the effects of industrial modernization. Not all of these conflicts are resolved--in fact, there's more ambiguity than there is clarity--but it's Dodola and Zam, the book's two orphaned lovers, that imbue Habibi with empathy and humanity. Thompson, who is best known for Blankets, one of the most critically lauded comics of the past decade, has crafted another affecting story of passion, humor, and imagination. --Kevin Nguyen


“The character depth, plot complexity, and storytelling in this lyrical, sexual, and scholarly epic would make any novelist proud…Thompson strings compositions that are often more tapestry than comics and that balance graphic design, illumination, calligraphy, and cartooning in steady alignment. It is unfair to expect two masterpieces in a row from anyone, but here Thompson sits securely in that rarefied air.” –Booklist, starred review

“A lushly epic love story that's both inspiring and heartbreaking…In addition to richly detailed story panels, the gorgeous Arabic ornamental calligraphy makes each page an individual work of art. A dense, swirling dervish of a tale…this will be the most talked about graphic novel of the fall.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review   

“The exquisite beauty and deep magic of this Arabian Nights-style love story cannot be overstated...Habibi is certain to join the ranks of graphic novels that expand our understanding of not only the genre but also the world it describes.” –Library Journal, starred review 

Habibi lifts the bar of graphic storytelling to new heights, both by the intricate, dramatic density and breathtaking scholar­ship of Thompson’s panels and by the sheer scale and decorative beauty of his flowing, roiling, protean style. Thompson is the Charles Dickens of the genre, able to capture all the scary, heartbreaking, brave, uplifting details of his characters’ fates while orchestrating the big-picture machinations that connect them to the lives and times of his readers…Habibi is a masterpiece that surely is one of a kind.” –Elle Magazine   
“A graphic novel that is sure to attract attention…A mature—in all its meanings—glimpse into a world few Westerners are at home with, and Thompson is respectful throughout.” -Kirkus

“Exquisite…HABIBI is a remarkable feat of research, care, and black ink, and a reminder that all "People of the book," despite the division of their individual traditions, share a mosaic of stories.” –Zadie Smith, Harper’s Magazine

Habibi has classic written all over it. It’s a modern literary triumph, a book so broad and magical in its scope, only a master could pull it off. This is no ordinary comic, it is a complete work of art. Beautiful, thought provoking, both timeless and of its time…An awe-inspiring read you can’t afford to miss” –Grovel, graphic novel reviews    
“Easily the best graphic novel of the year, and probably the decade…Thompson’s line work here is beyond brilliant, combining myriad styles and capturing the rich historical legacy of the cultural and religious volumes that inspired it. This is a work that truly changes the game and sets a new standard for all the graphic novels that follow it.” –GraphicNovelReporter.com

"Craig Thompson's new graphic novel, Habibi, is a masterpiece. This isn't an opinion. This book is a gorgeous object; to make it, Thompson apparently covered himself in honey and rolled around in a thousand years of Arabic calligraphy and Islamic art, and the result is breathtaking.” -The Boston Phoenix

“Erotic, grotesque, and profoundly moving…I don’t think I’ve ever read a book quite like this, and I expect I’ll be thinking about it for a long, long time.” –Boing Boing

“Layered, daring, and brilliantly told—an intricate story of love, religion, desire, survival, poverty, hope. It’s drenched in metaphor and rich with double meanings. Yet for all it takes on, Habibi feels light on its feet; throughout, we feel Thompson reveling in his skills as a writer and artist. Its exuberance, even in its darkest moments, feels somehow celebratory. I’m not sure that I’ve read a better graphic novel…Thompson’s own work is manically elaborate and ingeniously laid out; he’s become expert at moving the eye through exploding, dexterous panels.” –The Millions 
“Mere words—or at least my mere words—seemed not enough to even try to convey just how intricate and ornate, lush and seductive, arabesque and sometimes knowingly grotesque this artistic epic is…a visual masterpiece.” –Comic Riffs, Washington Post blog

“Like the elegantly dense mosaic patterns that Thompson fills the background of his pages with, Habibi is a book that weaves isolated shapes into an overpowering tableaux, its pieces carefully fit together and subtly repeated until a gorgeous unity emerges.” –National Post

“Relentlessly virtuosic... It is a tribute to Thompson's skill as a cartoonist that the transition from an old fashioned Orient to modern Babylon leaves few visual seams." –New York Times Book Review

“While the storytelling is gripping, surprising, and emotionally and intellectually hard-hitting, it almost takes a back seat to the artwork that is alternately robust and fragile. Thompson's deft, assured lines have never been more delicately and profoundly inked than here…This book is a monument of intelligent, vibrant design, all in service to the story.” –Barnes and Noble review

“Brilliantly imagined…celebrates the power of the artist to tell a story with ink teased into magisterial letters and visual images.” –Newsweek  
“Thompson makes a good third of the other illustrators out there look like total chumps. Each page is carefully designed with recurring motifs–that draw from sources like the Qur’an and other storytelling traditions–to add multiple layers of meaning to every moment. Scenes of city life and vast endless oceans of sand are drawn with such attention to detail that you’ll be staggered imagining a human being crafting the images with human hands and commonly available tools…It’s a story told with technical precision and real, honest-to-gosh passion, and if you cry at the end it won’t be because you’ve been successfully manipulated–it’ll be because this world and these characters have come to mean something to you, and you’ll miss them once you reach the final page.” –Richmond News 

 “If you haven’t been exposed to the work of Craig Thompson yet, you have been deprived of a true aesthetic experience…To say the work is visually stunning is an understatement. Thompson’s art is simple black and white inking, yet his ink strokes convey a sense of live movement as if you’re watching the characters move across the page…don’t dismiss Habibi as a book of pretty pictures. While the artwork is incredible, Craig Thompson’s Habibi is a book that will affect your heart.” –Wit and Fancy blog site
“Artistically, it's the most gorgeous book I read this year, with compositions and layouts weaving together effortlessly and with endless depth and detail…an outrageous success, and worth every bit of time Thompson spent on it. As great as this year was in comics, Habibi might have been the best thing I read in all of comics all year, and it makes me all the more excited to see what Thompson will be up to next.” –MultiversityComics.com, “Best Graphic Novel of the 2011”

“The intricacy of patterns and motifs (both visible and metaphorical) hold the text together and astound in their complexity. In the world of Habibi, art is never divorced from meaning; drawings are symbolic verse, words twisted into new shapes…Habibi is about the power of words to carry and envelop us, and in Thompson’s beautifully written novel, the reader experiences a similar magic.” –ALARM Press

Habibi is a confident, powerfully drawn graphic novel, telling its tale with passion, humor and an endless understanding of the human condition…A graphic novel masterpiece that explores what it means to be human through religious story, slavery, prostitution and personal and societal struggles within the industrial and third worlds.” –Shelf Awareness, starred review
A lush commentary on love and lust, wealth and want, religion and storytelling…the power in this tale lies in human passion, sometimes cruel and sometimes sweet, combined with its geometric precision and deep sense of the sacred.” –Harvard Crimson
“Lushly illustrated, at times unbearably sad and unexpectedly erotic.” –Paste Magazine

“To read Habibi is to sink into the sensuous arabesque patterns that decorate its pages. Steeped in the imagery and storytelling traditions of the Muslim world, this densely layered love story is as grand and sustained a performance as any cartoonist has published…Thompson’s fluid, evocative artwork is pretty miraculous too.” –Time Magazine 
“Habibi is like a big, rousing, unabashedly tear-jerking Dumas novel, with fascinatingly intricate designs and fabulous tales on almost every page.” –Salon
“It’s impossible to read this book and not walk away with a deeper, more profound understanding or appreciation for not both Arab culture and for the subtle and varied ways in which populations portrayed as enemies are in fact alike. Thanks to Thompson’s deft storytelling, ‘Habibi’s’ seemingly daunting 700-plus pages can go by in a breeze; you won’t want them to, though, b...

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Customer Reviews

One of the best graphic novels I have ever read.
Edmund Davis-Quinn
I've read this book in dutch, i borrowed it from my local library.
If you love stories, its narrative is beautifully written.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

92 of 102 people found the following review helpful By J. WOFFORD on September 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Habibi is a fable of exploitation and the cruelty of the strong toward the weak. It is a love story, though the the kind of love it celebrates--maternal, platonic, erotic--remains elusive throughout. It is also a sermon complete with hell-fire and brimstone and strident pleading about the dangers of the sin of waste. Most of all it is prophecy dressed in poetry's clothing--an artful shriek announcing of the end of the world.

All of this lovely fable-telling and street-preaching comes packaged in a graphic novel. And what a novel! And how graphic! Author and artist Craig Thompson gives us pages filled with toil, tears, and blood--whether his own or someone else's is hard to say. The book is beautiful, yes. Every dot, every line tells of human longing and agony. Every panel draws your eye, delights, repulses, demands--requires your attention. Many of the pages, with their intricate arabesque patterns, must have taken endless hours for Thompson to craft. No wonder that nine years have passed since Thompson's last major work, Blankets. The drawings in Habibi are a gift, bought at a price, and it does seem a sin to refuse them.

The story, too, is masterfully crafted. It tells of two urchins, Dodola and Zam, who find each other in the mire of the Arab slave trade. Dodola survives by prostitution and wit, nurturing and protecting Zam until he, too, begins to yearn for her body. Their journey through the filth of a decaying world, through magic and old lore, and through their own damaged souls proves constantly engrossing.

Thompson is not always the most elegant of writers. Sometimes the voice of the preacher oppresses Dodola's more underspoken narration. "Zam was soothed by stories," she explains early in the book.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Taylor on September 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Craig Thompson's Blankets is one of my all time favorite novels, so it is not surprising that I was waiting in anticipation for this book, and it does not disappoint.

If Blankets was a comforting quilt constructed from unrequited love and childhood innocence then Habibi is a tapestry; exotic, richly decorated and replete with signs and symbols easily understood but not always fully comprehended. It is also immense, even though it is only 100 pages or so lengthier than blankets the entire size and scope of the story seems exponentially larger.

It is a MATURE graphic novel in that it deals with themes, which would be difficult to grapple in any medium, such as abandonment, sexual slavery, prejudice etc but always with a sensitivity and understanding which belies the notion that graphic novels are simply long-form comics. The usual poor reviews on account of the sex, violence and nudity are, I'm sure, inevitable. There is sex, violence and nudity but it is not gratuitous, it is employed to advance the story or develop the characters- still if you have overtly susceptible sensibilities then perhaps this book should be avoided.

The plot is complex and meandering and not succinctly summarized, in tone it has much in common with the magical-realism form of writing- it is compelling and it is likely that, despite the length of the story, most readers will finish the book in only a few days.

It also makes a great argument for the printed form; when you hold it in your hands you feel like you are holding an extraordinary tome, it is beautifully bound with tasteful gold lettering and the tactile sensation of turning these ornately decorated pages is not something which could be easily approximated in the digital format
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Andy Shuping on September 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Craig Thompson, best known for his graphic novel memoir Blankets, has created yet another epic masterpiece that spans across time and space. Set in the Middle East and drawing inspiration from Islamic history and the Qur'an, we follow the epic story of Dodola and Zam, two orphans that escape the Arab slave trade. Their story begins together in a boat abandoned in the middle of the desert set in between a town in poverty and an opulent city where the Sultan dwells, where stories are told and dreams are born. Over nine years Zam and Dodola grow up together on the boat (Zam is 3 in the beginning and Dodola as 12) till the day things come crashing down...and Dodola is kidnapped into the harem of the Sultan. And Zam is left to fend for himself and gets lost amongst the city. Their stories separate, each under going their own trials and tribulations, yet each crying out for each other in the darkness of the night. Each broken and molded in new ways and yet, when their paths cross again each is happy to claim the other yet again. And the story continues on, in a new boat, and in a new sea.

First of all this is just an absolutely beautifully designed book. I just keep getting lost in looking at the design of it, even before I open the pages. The letter are embossed in gold lettering into the cover; with white insets, one on the front cover, the back cover, and one on the spine, depicting the characters at three different points in their lives; and the design around the insets and over the cover are like calligraphy from a lost scroll.
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More About the Author

CRAIG THOMPSON's previous graphic novels include Blankets (for which he received three Harvey Awards for Best Artist, Best Graphic Album of Original Work, and Best Cartoonist; and two Eisner Awards for Best Graphic Album and Best Writer/Artist); Goodbye, Chunky Rice; and Carnet de Voyage. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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