Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage is the entertaining travelogue that the young graphic novelist drew and wrote while visiting France and Morocco in the early 2000s. Thompson is known mainly as the illustrator/writer behind the 2003 coming-of-age tale Blankets, which details how he lost his Christian faith growing up in Middle America. This notebook encompasses the research he did for 2011’s Habibi.
What’s amazing about Carnet de Voyage is it was created in the moment. Thompson put the whole thing together while on the road. He didn’t take his trip, then write about it. He created the story as he was living it. “The pages are drawn on location,” he says in the prologue.
Thompson brings his usual self-deprecating humour to the proceedings. And the more kilometres he travels, the more he realizes he can’t get away from himself. “I thought with Morocco I’d be setting out on some exotic adventure, but it turns out I’m just a simple, quiet fellow,” he says in a moment of reflection.
The narrative was put together using a melange of English and French, which might be an exotic blend of languages for his American readers, but will be very familiar to Canadian readers.
What I appreciate is Thompson’s honesty. He doesn’t sugar-coat the bad days. Some of the pages are quite raw, in that Thompson does not feel a need to be polite about his impressions of foreigners.
Oh yeah, and you’ve heard the rumours about Americans posing as Canadians so they don’t get flak while in foreign lands? Thompson isn’t afraid to admit he fakes being a Canuck, a brave revelation that likely will rub readers here the wrong way.