Kirkus Reviews Gives PYONGYANG a Starred Review!

“Kirkus Starred Review - Pyongyang” / Kirkus Reviews / Kirkus Reviews Staff / June 28, 2005

The true story of French animator Delisle's two-month gig in North Korea.

The author accepted an assignment to work with a team of North Koreans hired to draw a cartoon series. This graphic novel depicts his time there, mostly in the capital city. Delisle stays at one of the three hotels in Pyongyang permitted to take foreign guests. The 50-story Yangakkdo is mostly empty; the only floor with its lights turned on is the one with foreigners on it. Accompanied everywhere by at least one of two government assigned "guides," the animator sees pretty much only what the powers that be want him to see. Even that limited view, however, reveals a fascistic and surreal landscape; a "phantom city in a hermit nation." Delisle is a good guide through this overly ordered world. He genuinely like the North Koreans and has no ideological axe to grind; he brings Orwell to read, but doesn't let it restrict his thinking. His sharp eye captures many telling details: a monstrously luxurious subway station (marble walls, chandeliers) that seems to be only for show; the empty restaurants, the "volunteer" civilians obsessively cleaning everywhere he looks; and always the passionate reverence for Kim Jong II, whose portrait hangs "in every room, on every floor, in every building" throughout the land.

Brilliant, passionately rendered reportage.

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