Guy Delisle's Hostage: In stores today!
When we first got word that Guy Delisle's wife was no longer going to be travelling with MSF, the question on all our minds was, well, what about Guy's books! After our initial panic of course the excitement grew as we started to think about what this actually meant for Guy's career, and all the exciting directions he could push it in. And sure enough, when we heard what his next book would be, we could not have been more intrigued. Hostage tells the story of Christophe André's time—111 days—in captivity in Chechnya. Kidnapped while on an NGO mission in Nazran, and held captive in nearby Grozny strapped to a radiator in complete isolation (save visits from his captors three times a day for meal delivery and bathroom relief), Christophe's story is harrowing and suspenseful beyond expectations.
In other hands, the story of a man stuck in a room for months might become a bit monotonous, but Guy is a master storyteller and his pacing and rhythm in Hostage are unmatched. As he chronicles Christophe's cramped surroundings, daily routines, and sheer mental will and strength of character through these times, we get inside the head of a man struggling to survive and savour the small pleasures as they come to him. Hostage is a fast read, which at over 400 pages is quite rare. But Guy does such a good job at capturing the atmosphere and tension, that you can't help but race through it, not because you want to finish the book, but because you feel so uneasy on Christophe's behalf. As a reader, you never really get used to it, to not knowing, and you keep waiting for something to happen in the same way Christophe does—searching for some form of relief.
One of the strengths of Guy's previous books (Jerusalem and Burma Chronicles) is they are not just about the daily life of humanitarian workers in these places, but people in general. With Guy's experience, it would be so easy to tell heroic, larger-than-life stories, but in contested lands and political upheaval, day-to-day life continues, and these are the stories so often not told. A tale of capture could be a nail-biting Hollywood thriller (which at times here it certainly is!), but in Guy’s hands we face the day-to-day reality of this surreal situation, whether its the logistics of eating and sleeping with one arm restrained, or the reminder that right on the other side of the walls where Christophe is being kept, a boy plays with a ball, a couple argues, lives continue. This uniqueness in approach that we've seen from Guy in his past books is stronger than ever here.
Hostage is available in stores today, and Guy will be on tour in Canada and the US in May, with his first stop on May 6 here in Montreal! Other tour stops include Toronto (TCAF), Cambridge, New York, LA, Portland, and Vancouver. Full tour info here! Hope to see you at one of his stops!