I read this fantastic graphic novel by Australian artist Shaun Tan last week, and the images seem to have burned themselves into my brain. It’s completely wordless, and follows the journey of one unnamed man as he leaves his homeland for another, hoping to build up a solid enough base for himself to be able to bring his wife and daughter over as well. The strange country he has moved to is slowly but surely unfolded before us, with its bizarre food, strange monetary system and all sorts of weird and wonderful things; we learn its customs as he does. The most charming things are the odd creatures that seem to attach themselves to humans in this country (see the picture above and my icon for this post for examples); they’re like familiars or perhaps Philip Pullman’s daemons. It’s all done in sepia tones, with photo-realistic humans but stylised animals and fantastical buildings; I think the artwork reminds me of Escher’s prints, as there’s a relationship between objects that’s a bit different from the norm (to say the least). And a few segments reminded me of Miyazaki’s Nausicaa (especially the bit with the giants – robots? – rampaging). But even though this is all very beautifully imagined and carefully rendered, the artist’s focus is on the universal emotions that accompany immigration; apparently he spent months painstakingly for researching this book, and it is reflected in the very real feeling to the immigration procedures that greet the Immigrant, and his worried, puzzled face. The Arrival is delicate and wistful and strange, and (I think) very special. So go forth! Raid your local library and bookseller! I’m definitely going to scout myself a copy of this lovely book.
These images are used with all due respect to the artist, and only to give an example of his work:
ETA: I lose my badge: I misspelled the author's name (now corrected)!