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Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China Hardcover – October 17, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Last year's Pyongyang introduced Delisle's acute voice, as he reported from North Korea with unusual insight and wit, not to mention wonderfully detailed cartooning. Shenzhen is not a follow-up so much as another installment in what one hopes is an ongoing series of travelogues by this talented artist. Here he again finds himself working on an animated movie in a Communist country, this time in Shenzhen, an isolated city in southern China. Delisle not only takes readers through his daily routine, but also explores Chinese custom and geography, eloquently explaining the cultural differences city to city, company to company and person to person. He also goes into detail about the food and entertainment of the region as well as animation in general and his own career path. All of this is the result of his intense isolation for three months in an anonymous hotel room. He has little to do but ruminate on his surroundings, and readers are the lucky beneficiaries of his loneliness. As in his earlier work, Delisle draws in a gentle cartoon style: his observations are grounded in realism, but his figures are light cartoons, giving the book, as Delisle himself remarks, a feeling of an alternative Tintin. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Delisle's Pyongyang (2005) documented two months spent overseeing cartoon production in North Korea's capital. Now he recounts a 1997 stint in the Chinese boomtown Shenzhen. Even a decade ago, China showed signs of Westernization, at least in Special Economic Zones such as Shenzhen, where Delisle found a Hard Rock Cafe and a Gold's Gym. Still, he experienced near-constant alienation. The absence of other Westerners and bilingual Chinese left him unable to ask about baffling cultural differences ranging from exotic shops to the pervasive lack of sanitation. Because China is an authoritarian, not totalitarian, state, and Delisle escaped the oppressive atmosphere with a getaway to nearby Hong Kong, whose relative familiarity gave him "reverse culture shock," Delisle's wittily empathetic depiction of the Western-Chinese cultural gap is less dramatic than that of his Korean sojourn. That said, his creative skill suggests that the comic strip is the ideal medium for such an account. His wry drawings and clever storytelling convey his experiences far more effectively than one imagines a travel journal or film documentary would. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; First Edition edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894937791
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894937795
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,381,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Zhu on October 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me just indicate that I am an avid fan of artist Guy Delisle's graphic novels and short stories. I have since purchased his newest book "Burma Chronicles" after reading his wonderful, insightful and caustic "Pyongyang", which details the bizarre, communist "hermit" nation of North Korea.

"Shenzhen" by no means, was the author's first book of its kind, and the predecessor to "Pyongyang". In thisblack-and-white graphic novel, Delisle chronicles his stay in the province of Shenzhen, a region near other major cities in communist China, and the more liberal nations Hong Kong and Taiwan. Personally, I had high expectations for this book despite the somewhat mediocre reviews already up on Amazon. I bought it together with "Burma Chronicles" and read it as soon as it was shipped to me from America. As my first review on Amazon, it saddens me to give this book a 2 out of 5 stars.

First of all, I must compare "Shenzhen" to Delisle's "Pyongyang", because expectations precedes my opinion of the book here. Where "Pyongyang" succeeded as a highly-intelligent, witty, satirical and insightful graphic novel (which this comic genre rarely does) about the absurdities of North Korean life under the dictatorship of Kim Jong-Il, "Shenzhen" does little to inform, to humour, or to intrigue the readers much. Delisle's Shenzhen travelogue merely focuses on his personal boredom, alienated state of being as a foreigner whom knows nothing about the Chinese culture and way of life as he does his job as an animator consultant in an outsourced studio (which does animation series for TV).
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Format: Hardcover
This is an absorbing traveller's tale which I began reading late at night and couldn't go to bed before finishing. Not only didn't I find it boring but I disagree with most of the criticisms in Thy Tran's review. Firstly, Delisle made it clear that he tried hard to converse with and get to know his translator but received no encouragement, which he found quite disheartening. The incident where they only begin to talk a short while before he leaves, when the formality and apparent awkwardness inherent in their situation fall away and parting is suddenly close at hand, is entirely true to life and happens to all sorts of people both within and across cultures. Also, Delisle obviously tried several places to eat and a variety of dishes with varying success and for him to settle on reliable favourites, as a semi-permanent resident, is quite natural. We all do it both at home and abroad while keeping our curiosity and options open. It seems to me that Delisle does all this in an understandably human way and I cannot see how this reflects badly on his attitude. He is obviously frustrated by many things and makes no bones about it, but he remains curious about the world he finds himself in and tries to find a way into it through the thing he knows and loves best, drawing - and by seeking out the work of Chinese artists that he has a powerful response to. I also fail to see any of the stereotyping that Thy Tran seems to infer from the book and on another flick through it I cannot readily see any of the "buckteeth" he finds so annoying. Like Delisle's "Pyongyang" this is a highly enjoyable and very human book and I recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you've spent an extended period of time in China, or especially if you know the language, don't buy this book. You will be annoyed by the author's depictions of this "mystical land of intrigue and oriental mystery". Also, the parts where people speak Chinese use random characters instead of letting those in the know see what people are talking about. Bleh.
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This is the first book that I have read by this author and it was very entertaining. As another reviewer stated this truly is the story of a stranger in a strange land. Delisle was in China for work and that was the focus of his activities, he was not there to travel or discover things about the country. It is interesting to see the reactions on both sides of when he did try to interact with the Chinese (I particularly like their response to how overtime is handled in the Canada). There is a sense of loneliness and depression that permeate the book as the author tries to set up a daily and weekly routine and find activities to break the boredom. This however is offset by his thoughts on his experiences and the anecdotal stories from his life that he intersperses with the China stories.

I like that he showed the people trying to be good "hosts" to a visitor to their country and entertain him to the best of their ability - what was funny was his slightly puzzled reaction to these efforts. The drawing were simple and clean but conveyed people's reactions well and clearly showed the context of the situations he was describing. I enjoyed this novel and have bought more of the books in his travel series to see what happened to him in Burma and North Korea
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The book is a quick read. I don't think every body would enjoy or understand reading about other cultures this way, but I was entertained. I, probably, will purchase another one of these light reads. Anyone who has ever traveled to China would understand what the author is stating in his pictures. I plan to share my purchase with other friends who travel.
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