The Times Literary Supplement reviews Hostage

“Numbered days” / The Times Literary Supplement / Paul Gravett / June 20, 2017

Acclaim for the Québecois cartoonist Guy Delisle has mostly been based on his autobiographical reports, from an inquisitive outsider’s perspective, on extended visits to politically sensitive locations, including Shenzhen, Pyongyang, Myanmar and Jerusalem. On a lighter domestic note, in his recent trilogy of vignettes, A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting (2013), he wittily explored the lessons of becoming a father. Hostage marks a departure: here, Delisle takes a back seat and interprets someone else’s extraordinary experiences.

His subject and narrator is Christophe André: bearded, bespectacled, chubby, French, peaceable, on his first job in the humanitarian sector, working for Médecins Sans Frontières (like Delisle’s wife, through whom they met in 2001). In 1997, aged thirty, Christophe is an administrator in the town of Nazran in Ingushetia, a Russian republic west of Chechnya, when he is seized from his bed in the small hours by four men. Initially he presumes they…

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