- Series: The Arab of the Future (Book 2)
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (September 20, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1627793518
- ISBN-13: 978-1627793513
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir Paperback – September 20, 2016
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“Sattouf’s story and storytelling [are] irresistible. . . . Living betwixt and between cultures may be Sattouf’s destiny. It was hard on him as a child, and it may remain so in adulthood. But it makes for exceptionally good art.”
―The New York Times
“A deft and devastating graphic memoir . . . both sensitive and biting . . . Along the way, we get a fine-grained, first-person account of the brutality of Syria under Hafez al-Assad and Libya under Muammar Qaddafi.”
―New York Review of Books
“Sattouf is a master of visual storytelling, capable of compressing a great deal of human emotion and contradictions within a few panels. He creates a searing depiction of growing up poor in a country ruled by corruption and religious zealotry.”
“Nothing escapes Sattouf’s curious and vigilant eyes. . . . Using the magic of his visual storytelling, Sattouf becomes a darkly humorous, poignant, and vivid guide into the mind of Syrians.”
―Christian Science Monitor
“Darkly ironic . . . Sattouf’s father is the same immature, posturing figure familiar from volume 1―the family can only trail along in the mercurial patriarch’s wake. Under Sattouf’s pen, this state of affairs becomes an ingeniously apt microcosm of the larger world he grew up in.”
“A darker book than its predecessor, though it’s still drily funny, Sattouf never failing to make the most of the aching gap between his father’s fantasies and reality.”
―The Guardian (Graphic Novel of the Month)
“The scope of Sattouf’s comic is remarkable, taking in the complicated landscape of politics and religion, but it is in the small, human moments that he shines as an artist. . . . The Arab of the Future is essential read that deserves such a phenomenal sequel.”
“This work will undoubtedly win more accolades as the author continues the proposed five-volume series. Readers familiar with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis will be well rewarded when they pick up this similarly engrossing book.”
About the Author
Riad Sattouf is a best-selling cartoonist and filmmaker who grew up in Syria and Libya and now lives in Paris. The author of several comics series in France and a former contributor to the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf is now a weekly columnist for l’Obs. He also directed the films The French Kissers and Jacky in the Women’s Kingdom.
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Riad starts school, and many scenes are set there, where corporal punishment--delivered with something that looks like a truncheon, generally as a THWACK! across the hands--is arbitrary and commonplace, and much of the education seems to be pure indoctrination. For instance, as Riad recounts it, the very first lesson is learning the national anthem ("Defenders of the Homeland, peace be with you...The home of pan-Arabism, a sacred sanctuary...Our spirit is noble and our past glorious, and our martyrs' souls are our guardians...."), and before a presidential election, the class is told, "we must all say yes to our president Hafez Al-Assad [father of the current president, Bashar Al-Assad]...So you must tell your parents to vote yes, of course, because President Assad is the father of the Syrian nation." Riad afterwards reports, capturing his childhood innocence, "On February 10, 1985, Hafez Al-Assad was reelected with a 100-percent yes vote, a world record!" Assad, by the way, was the only candidate.
There are other memories of these schooldays--some that seem quite ordinary and pleasant; others that will likely strike readers as much darker (e.g., playing at war against Israel, with cries of "Let's kill as many Jews as we can!...Yaay! All the Jews are dead!"). And there are many scenes set at home, where Riad's love and respect for his father are quite evident, but where he seems not to fully sense the magnitude of the tension between his French-born mother and his father, educated in France and with seemingly ambivalent feelings about traditional and modern values. The mother is generally in the background in this story, but when she emerges--for instance, immediately and forcefully condemning the honor killing of a unwed village woman who became pregnant, while Riad's father vacillates about reporting the crime--it seems apparent that conflicts are going to be a larger part of the story going forward.
Another telling scene takes place late in the book when on a summer vacation in France to visit his grandparents, Riad visits the Euromarche, a superstore along the lines, I suppose, of a Target. He is overwhelmed by the selection toys, electronics, groceries, etc, and he concludes, "For me, it was the best place on earth." This is in contrast to the fact that when his father wants to purchase some luxuries for the home (to his mother, necessities, like a gas oven), he has to resort to the black market, where goods are smuggled in from Lebanon. During the same trip to get the oven, he also happily buys a VCR--a Betamax. Ulp.
Book 3 in this series was published in France in Oct 2016 but will apparently not be available in the US until Aug 2018. I look forward to it!
Because this is volume 2, Riad is more at the center of action than an observer of his parents. He enters school and has to deal with terrible rule beatings from his teachers and statist propaganda about religion and politics (the bit on the Presidential election is terrific). Riad has a kind heart and a keen eye - he can see that many of his classmates are very poor and some have burn marks on their face and hands (from crawling around as a baby and knocking over super hot cups of tea). He walks around with other children, picks up crabs, plays at war, forms friendships, and is occasionally ostracized and left out. Despite being set in Syria, Riad shares many universal experiences of childhood.
The first volume was nominated for an Eisner award. It would have won, but it ran into incredibly stiff competition (March 2 by John Lewis won, while "The Story of My Tits" is an incredible memoir about a family's multigenerational battle with breast cancer). March 3 came out a few weeks before this, and Mr. Satouf will be hard pressed to pick up the Eisner this year. But it seems like we will have several volumes of this comic, so he should get an Eisner at some point.
It's a fine work. I imagine that some Arabs will find this offensive, and that some Trumpists will cite it as an excuse to ban all Muslims (but then again, that kind of individual would not read this). Both are wrong. Frankly, it's a great story from a man raised in two worlds.
The story: gut retching. Painfully honest. Frankly, I'd fear for the author's safety. I pray that the title is ironic and the it does not depict the Arab of the future but Sattouf makes it quite clear that change in the Arab world just isn't in the cards.
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Best to go with the ride and not think...Read more