Magazine article World Literature Today

Hostage

Magazine article World Literature Today

Hostage

Article excerpt

Guy Delisle. Hostage. Trans. Helge Dascher. Montreal. Drawn & Quarterly. 2017. 432 pages.

Christophe Andre was working as a Médecins Sans Frontieres administrator in Ingushetia, just west of Chechnya, when he was kidnapped and held for 111 days. His story might well have been forgotten but for Guy Delisle's extraordinary graphic talent. Delisle manages to get inside Andre's mind and plumb his soul to provide the reader with a visceral experience of a most frightening and disorienting captivity. Having recorded interviews with Andre, Delisle has firsthand information with which to work. He uses it well but moves beyond mere facts to create a tour de force exploration of resilience.

Using only shades of blue-gray, white, and black, Delisle's panels follow Andre from the beginning to the end of his ordeal. The visuals are not emphatically fascinating in themselves or that varied- how much can you do with a man tied to a radiator in a small room, occasionally visited by a captor with a bowl of thin gruel? It is rather the territory within Andre's mind that captures the reader and characterizes his movement from optimism and the certainty that his colleagues are plotting his rescue, to deep despair that he has been forgotten, to self-blame and self-incriminatory feelings of impotence.

Andre doesn't have a language in common with his captors, so his only recourse is to interpret their action or nonaction in conversation with himself. At a certain point, two of his captors, all of whom are made singular through the succinct genius of Delisle's drawing, enter the room and offer him a glass of vodka, which he accepts, drinks with them, then thinks, "Is this fraternizing with the enemy? …

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