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The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rura The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi's Libya, and Assad's Syria--but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation. Riad, delicate and wide-eyed, follows in the trail of his mismatched parents; his mother, a bookish French student, is as modest as his father is flamboyant. Venturing first to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab State and then joining the family tribe in Homs, Syria, they hold fast to the vision of the paradise that always lies just around the corner. And hold they do, though food is scarce, children kill dogs for sport, and with locks banned, the Sattoufs come home one day to discover another family occupying their apartment. The ultimate outsider, Riad, with his flowing blond hair, is called the ultimate insult… Jewish. And in no time at all, his father has come up with yet another grand plan, moving from building a new people to building his own great palace. Brimming with life and dark humor, The Arab of the Future reveals the truth and texture of one eccentric family in an absurd Middle East, and also introduces a master cartoonist in a work destined to stand alongside Maus and Persepolis.


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The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rura The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi's Libya, and Assad's Syria--but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation. Riad, delicate and wide-eyed, follows in the trail of his mismatched parents; his mother, a bookish French student, is as modest as his father is flamboyant. Venturing first to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab State and then joining the family tribe in Homs, Syria, they hold fast to the vision of the paradise that always lies just around the corner. And hold they do, though food is scarce, children kill dogs for sport, and with locks banned, the Sattoufs come home one day to discover another family occupying their apartment. The ultimate outsider, Riad, with his flowing blond hair, is called the ultimate insult… Jewish. And in no time at all, his father has come up with yet another grand plan, moving from building a new people to building his own great palace. Brimming with life and dark humor, The Arab of the Future reveals the truth and texture of one eccentric family in an absurd Middle East, and also introduces a master cartoonist in a work destined to stand alongside Maus and Persepolis.

30 review for The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    DNF'd because the font is so tiny that all my concentration was on reading the text and not the meaning and so I could never get into it. (view spoiler)[The text on bookshelves and profiles of Goodreads now is like that, it just plain takes the enjoyment away when you have to concentrate on the font. *Edit* I now have Stylebot and Font Changer so GR is in nice colours with good fonts and not one single thing, ad or feature I don't want to see. (hide spoiler)] The author was a cartoonist at Charli DNF'd because the font is so tiny that all my concentration was on reading the text and not the meaning and so I could never get into it. (view spoiler)[The text on bookshelves and profiles of Goodreads now is like that, it just plain takes the enjoyment away when you have to concentrate on the font. *Edit* I now have Stylebot and Font Changer so GR is in nice colours with good fonts and not one single thing, ad or feature I don't want to see. (hide spoiler)] The author was a cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo and is an award-winning filmmaker. He is Franco-Syrian and was brought up in the Middle East. Just a couple of quotes from the book because it illustrates so well how the Arab PR is not only to convince the outside world that their version of history and events of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is the correct one, facts be damned, but also to persuade themselves that any memories they have of the actual events are false. The real version is the one they want to believe where they are always right, always hard done by, and the Israelis are always to be damned. And as the second quote shows, forget all this pretend oh it's the Israelis, Zionists, we hate, not the Jews, oh no sir we aren't anti-semitic we just hate the fucking bastards and teach our children to hate them without any reason at all. The author speaking of his father: "In 1967 he had been devastated by the Six Day War, when Egypt, Jordan and Syria were crushed by the Israelis. Then, in 1973, like all the Syrians of his generation he managed to transform the Arab defeat in the Yom Kippur War into an "almost victory". For two days Egypt and Syria advanced into Sinai and Golan. The Israelis didn't know what hit them. Then there was a cease-fire. And that's when the Israelis counterattacked, the cowards! We almost had them. Next time we'll finish them off. Yet his father had chosen to study abroad to avoid doing military service in Syria, which lasted several years." __________ "The Syrian boys Sattouf met were like “little men,” intimidatingly fluent in the rhetoric of warfare. The first Arabic word he learned from them was yehudi, “Jew.” It was hurled at him at a family gathering by two of his cousins, who proceeded to pounce on him. Fighting the Israeli Army was the most popular schoolyard game. The Jew was “a kind of evil creature for us,” Sattouf told me, though no one had actually seen one. (Sattouf writes, “I tried to be the most aggressive one toward the Jews, to prove that I wasn’t one of them.”) Another pastime was killing small animals: the first volume of “The Arab of the Future” concludes with the lynching of a puppy." To end this review, a sad and funny quote from The New York Times review of Sattouf's book. "In Arabic, the names Riad and Sattouf had what he described as “an impressive solemnity.” In French, they sounded like rire de sa touffe, which means “laugh at her pussy.” When teachers took attendance, “people would burst out laughing. It was impossible for a girl to date a guy whose name meant ‘I laughed at your pussy.’ ” As a result, he said, “I lived a very violent solitude. " I do like the author, he is part of the mixed cultural and religious staff of Charlie Hebdo, he overcame his upbringing by acknowledging the truth and letting go of racism and hatred. A fine man. I do wish the book had not been in graphic fomat because I really can't get through it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan Philipzig

    Like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future (yep, weird title!) is as much a memoir as it is an attempt to come to terms with a father of the... um... uh... challenging variety. Sattouf’s cartooning is more fluid, relaxed, and humorous than that of his American colleagues, though, almost jazzy. It communicates openness, flexibility, and empathy – qualities we could use more of in Muslim-Western relations these days. And these Muslim-Western rel Like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future (yep, weird title!) is as much a memoir as it is an attempt to come to terms with a father of the... um... uh... challenging variety. Sattouf’s cartooning is more fluid, relaxed, and humorous than that of his American colleagues, though, almost jazzy. It communicates openness, flexibility, and empathy – qualities we could use more of in Muslim-Western relations these days. And these Muslim-Western relations are at the very core of this memoir by former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Riad Sattouf, as the book traces the author’s varied childhood experiences in France (where Riad was born to a French mother and an Arab Sunni father), Libya, and Syria. The flood of rich, detailed, authentic, often completely unexpected observations is both disturbing and mesmerizing, thanks in part to the clever narrative strategy of presenting them from a vague through-the-eyes-of-a-child-yet-filtered-through-adult-awareness perspective that does not appear to have any agenda whatsoever: it appears to do little more than taking in all kinds of weirdness with wide-open eyes, though ultimately, of course, it does provide a critique of both Arab-Muslim and Western attitudes and lifestyles. The thing is: the results don't feel pedantic or manipulative in the slightest, and this is crucial to the appeal of the story. Just following the father around is an experience unlike any I’ve ever had: I mean, I never know what this guy is going to do or say next, because his belief system and his values seem so all-over-the-place to me… and yet, somehow, magically, he feels like a perfectly organic human being. Which is what makes all the strangeness and madness and uncertainty so compelling! The Arab of the Future is the first book by Riad Sattouf to be translated into English, and thus quite a discovery for those of us who don’t speak French. I am very much looking forward to both the second part of this memoir and many more comics by Sattouf that are hopefully already being translated into English and other languages as I am typing this. Truly outstanding stuff, a must-read for fans of alternative comics!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This memoir in the form of a graphic novel by Riad Sattouf is positively terrifying. It only takes an evening to read, and I can guarantee you will not want to put it down. A cartoonist and former contributor to Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf now has a weekly column in France’s L’Obs. This graphic memoir is translated from the French by Sam Taylor and published in 2015 by Metropolitan Books, and tells of Sattouf’s early childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. The memoir is terrifying for what it tells us This memoir in the form of a graphic novel by Riad Sattouf is positively terrifying. It only takes an evening to read, and I can guarantee you will not want to put it down. A cartoonist and former contributor to Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf now has a weekly column in France’s L’Obs. This graphic memoir is translated from the French by Sam Taylor and published in 2015 by Metropolitan Books, and tells of Sattouf’s early childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. The memoir is terrifying for what it tells us of the consciousness of a Sunni Arab man and his extended family, as well as the conditions in the cities of Tripoli and Homs. Sattouf engages our sympathies immediately by starting out his descriptions from the eyes of a blond two-year-old, who we might expect to be perplexed wherever he was, being new to the world. But this turns out to be the perfect vehicle for presenting the things he sees, hears, smells, and experiences with a disingenuous honesty (though, I must admit, the consciousness of a child). It is as disarming as it is damning. We laugh and cringe at the same time. Sattouf is choosing what to tell us about his upbringing with the consciousness of an adult. He shows the peculiarities of early education in France, and Syria. Both have failures, as a system. It’s a wonder we survive at all, but less surprising that we exhibit the flaws we do. He has a finely honed skill for cutting away the extraneous, and revealing the kernel of his experience. He makes it laughable, but at heart, it is also terrifying. Riad’s Syrian father, Abdul-Razak, is the first of his family to read and is (therefore?) considered a great scholar in Syria. He is sent to study history at the Sorbonne and manages to wed an unworldly French student, Clementine, who is studying in Paris. Clementine is from a small village in Brittany and when they both graduate, Abdul-Razak accepts a position teaching in Tripoli, Libya. You have got to read this to enjoy it. I don’t want to spoil your fun. It sounds just about what you might expect with Qaddafi in charge, only even worse than you could imagine. The family returns briefly to France, and then pack themselves off to Abdul-Razak’s home village outside of Homs, Syria. By this time Riad has a new dark-haired brother, but his own hair is still blond. He is teased (and beaten up) mercilessly in Homs, where the children harass him with expletives while calling him “Jew.” Conditions of everyday life in the 1970’s in Syria sound positively crushing in this period Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad’s father, was in charge. Riad’s family was Sunni; Assad was Alawhite. Segregation by religion, by sect shouldn’t surprise me, but the extent and result of it is stomach-roiling. Riad’s dear father, Abdul-Razak doesn’t sound more enlightened, for all his education. I am reminded of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in which Dawkins writes of early childhood inculcation into any religion as one of the most damaging things that can happen to the impressionable mind. One cannot help but agree when one sees what it has done in cultures all over the world. In this part of the world hatreds last for millennia, perhaps due largely to childhood inculcation. Riad’s father buys him a plastic revolver as a toy. “All boys like weapons,” he says. Does it follow, I wonder, that all who like weapons are still boys? What Riad captures in this work is the deeply ingrained and insufficiently informed nature of the racism and sectarianism in each of the countries in which he has lived. He also captures realistically grim pictures of living conditions in each country, as well as the good bits: in France, we see an education system that seems to work well for enrollees; in Libya, we see ancient ruins by the sea that evoke history better than many other ruins; in Syria, we see the memories of a school-aged Abdul-Razak bring him back to a simple life. But each is a comfortable deception that people feel comfortable telling themselves. Family ties were more important than whether your relatives were good people or not, and obligation takes the place of generosity. Riad’s drawing skill is such that one can envision the environment quite clearly. It is better than a photograph since Riad can add the elements he wishes to emphasize. In the New York Times review of this title, as well as that in the New Yorker magazine, called "Drawing Blood", we learn that Riad has a few more installments planned for this series, and I look forward eagerly to other adventures as he grows older. He has a viewpoint that is not all sarcasm. He so far has spared his mother, who comes across as a bewildered alien in a hostile environment. Riad’s work has the sting of criticism, but since he presents it through the eyes of a child, adult readers are meant to add their own gloss, knowing what we do about the perceptions of a child. Let’s see what he comes up with next, enjoying this and making up our minds later about whether he oversteps the mark.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    Very funny, when it isn't totally terrifying. I will never understand why the author's mom went along with all her husband's crazy ideas though. Very funny, when it isn't totally terrifying. I will never understand why the author's mom went along with all her husband's crazy ideas though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    This is the first part of Riad Sattouf’s childhood memoirs, The Arab of the Future, and it is superb! With a Syrian father and French mother, the small family travels across Europe as his father gets work as an associate professor in Tripoli, Libya, during Gaddafi’s reign, before briefly jumping to Brittany, France, and ending up in nightmarish Syria under Hafez al- Assad. Sattouf doesn’t do anything particularly special with his style of storytelling, either literally or visually, he just tells This is the first part of Riad Sattouf’s childhood memoirs, The Arab of the Future, and it is superb! With a Syrian father and French mother, the small family travels across Europe as his father gets work as an associate professor in Tripoli, Libya, during Gaddafi’s reign, before briefly jumping to Brittany, France, and ending up in nightmarish Syria under Hafez al- Assad. Sattouf doesn’t do anything particularly special with his style of storytelling, either literally or visually, he just tells it straightforwardly but he does it so well. He’s a natural storyteller who’s perfectly suited to the comics medium and that makes reading this such a joy. As you would expect, it’s mostly focused on Riad and his family but we also learn what life was like in these countries at the time as well. For example Libya under Gaddafi where housing was free to all - like a bizarre game of finders keepers, you found somewhere that was empty and moved in! - and the basic foods that were doled out to everyone because supermarkets didn’t exist. It was a third world country and, reading the excerpts from Gaddafi’s Green Book here, it’s easy to see why conditions were so bad when this lunatic was running the show! Riad’s father, Abdul-Razak, is the star of this book. Riad writes him as a complex but real person. The only educated member of his Syrian family, he comes across as charming, funny, eccentric, bull-headed, tragic, conflicted, and strict. He certainly seems to come down on Riad quite heavily for not being able to read or wanting to learn despite his son being 3 years old at the time! Once the narrative shifts to Syria though you understand why his father is this way - THIS is where he grew up? Woah. Libya looked bad but Syria is far, far worse. It’s interesting to see Arab culture from the inside where men and women live in the same houses but occupy different rooms - the women eat the men’s leftovers at dinner. What a country though - roving street gangs of kids attacking anything in sight, people literally living in dirt, garbage being sold in the market, no working street lights or even paved roads or pavement. Be warned: there is graphic abuse of animals in this book. A donkey is beaten and a puppy is tortured and killed for entertainment. That was difficult to read – anyone who hurts animals for fun is sick. There are some countries I know I’ll never visit in my life and Syria is definitely one of them. If you didn’t see kids joyriding their dads’ cars, it’d be like time-travelling back to the Middle Ages! There are lots of wonderful little details sprinkled throughout that add so much to the narrative: Riad’s Syrian uncle visiting them in Brittany but being afraid of the sea so he kept his back to it all the time, and Riad’s lecherous French grandfather who used Riad to try picking up ladies, are just two of them. The Arab of the Future is a fantastic memoir that’s both informative and enjoyable and full of great scenes and unique personalities. I loved reading it and can’t recommend it highly enough - really looking forward to picking up the recently released second volume!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    The first volume of a memoir by filmmaker and former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Sattouf, about growing up in France--where his Sunni father met his French mother--and Libya and Syria. The artwork is terrific. Cartoony, it took me a little bit to get into the style, but it is highly accomplished work. The story features cute big nosed blonde young Sattouf, his mother, and principally his crazy racist academic father. We get glimpses into the poverty and chaos of Syria and Libya and the contrasts be The first volume of a memoir by filmmaker and former Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Sattouf, about growing up in France--where his Sunni father met his French mother--and Libya and Syria. The artwork is terrific. Cartoony, it took me a little bit to get into the style, but it is highly accomplished work. The story features cute big nosed blonde young Sattouf, his mother, and principally his crazy racist academic father. We get glimpses into the poverty and chaos of Syria and Libya and the contrasts between middle eastern and French lifestyles and cultures of that time. There's commentary of course on the politicians and politics of this era, though it is not heavily political, as we see all these issues through his wild dad's eyes, which we can't really trust. And maybe we see some critique of these views through his mother's reactions, which are maybe a little bit like most of our reactions, a little shocked but mostly amused. We are not led to believe much of anything about the political views of Sattouf. Yet. First volume, and Sattouf is a kid here. As a memoir it is accomplished artwork. There's some disturbing things in it. A family story in three countries. But if one were to compare it to the technically complex narratives of Maus and Persepolis and Fun Home, The Arab of the Future (AOF) (okay, could we have a better title, please?) is pretty straightforward, a kind of travelogue with light commentary. But those titles above set a pretty high bar for memoir work, and AOF is right up there. Translated into more than 18 languages thus far, it is an international sensation. And it is just the first volume, so we'll see where Sattouf takes us. I'm in. I'd say 4.5 would be closer to my rating for this, and I expect it will just get better and more complex.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    As a young boy Riad leaves rural France and is relocated in Libya and Syria as his father tries to connect with Pan-Arabist undercurrents in the region. Observant and filled with the type of 'shock of culture' that so often is not considered relevant when trying to understand national identification. This book gives us a micro-view of complex and continuing barriers when identifying normative behavior from differing cultural perspectives. As a young boy Riad leaves rural France and is relocated in Libya and Syria as his father tries to connect with Pan-Arabist undercurrents in the region. Observant and filled with the type of 'shock of culture' that so often is not considered relevant when trying to understand national identification. This book gives us a micro-view of complex and continuing barriers when identifying normative behavior from differing cultural perspectives.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paltia

    Illuminating memoir of a child moving between countries and cultures. Poignant, humorous and at times horrific. Satttouf’s narrative invites the reader to hear the sounds of the souq, inhale the smell of the sweat around him, and imagine the tastes of his diverse diet. We get a child’s perspective of parental conflicts that begin to shape his identity and worldview. It all merges into a cross cultural and cross national chaos. I can’t wait to begin part 2. Thought provoking and always enlighteni Illuminating memoir of a child moving between countries and cultures. Poignant, humorous and at times horrific. Satttouf’s narrative invites the reader to hear the sounds of the souq, inhale the smell of the sweat around him, and imagine the tastes of his diverse diet. We get a child’s perspective of parental conflicts that begin to shape his identity and worldview. It all merges into a cross cultural and cross national chaos. I can’t wait to begin part 2. Thought provoking and always enlightening. It is no wonder his writing has captured the imagination of so many.

  9. 5 out of 5

    B. P. Rinehart

    "IT may perhaps be censured as an impertinent criticism, in a discourse of this nature, to find fault with words and names, that have obtained in the world: and yet possibly it may not be amiss to offer new ones, when the old are apt to lead men into mistakes, as this of paternal power probably has done, which seems so to place the power of parents over their children wholly in the father, as if the mother had no share in it; whereas, if we consult reason or revelation, we shall find, she hath a "IT may perhaps be censured as an impertinent criticism, in a discourse of this nature, to find fault with words and names, that have obtained in the world: and yet possibly it may not be amiss to offer new ones, when the old are apt to lead men into mistakes, as this of paternal power probably has done, which seems so to place the power of parents over their children wholly in the father, as if the mother had no share in it; whereas, if we consult reason or revelation, we shall find, she hath an equal title. This may give one reason to ask, whether this might not be more properly called parental power? for whatever obligation nature and the right of generation lays on children, it must certainly bind them equal to both the concurrent causes of it. And accordingly we see the positive law of God every where joins them together, without distinction, when it commands the obedience of children, Honour thy father and thy mother, Exod. xx. 12. Whosoever curseth his father or his mother, Lev. xx. 9. Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, Lev. xix. 3. Children, obey your parents, &c. Eph. vi. 1. is the style of the Old and New Testament." - "Of Paternal Power," Second Treatise of Government, John Locke This book is the start of a graphic novel that has filled the void I had ever since I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude. It is the first book in a saga documenting the childhood of the author Riad Sattouf. The blurb that advertises this book best sums it up better than I can: " The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father ." This book as much as it is a tale of childhood is a story of living under Arab strongmen, of which the father is the most dominant. When we think of dictators it is easy to think of them as these eternally corrupt supernaturally-powered demons. This book endeavors to show the truth--most dictators are flawed, weak men who happened to be at the right place at the right time. We see the cults of personality that Gaddafi and the elder al-Assad have cultivated, but one gets the feeling that if things had been switched they could have easily turned out to be Abdul-Razak Sattouf. "Abu-Riad", is a hypocritical, bigoted, cowardly man who somehow lucked-on a beautiful wife and started a family. He is close to the worse possible man you want to support a family, but because he moves them into his hometown in Syria, he has a more powerful authority over them than he had in France or even Libya. The book is as much about him as his son. Riad himself is just a child coming of age and trying to get a grip on all the changes going on around him. The author narration is impartial and very monotone, even his personal opinions on his past are very direct with not much hyperbole. The Sattouf's extended family are very similar to Arcadio's in certain respects. I cannot wait to read the next book and see how this kid became the man he is more well known for. The fact that this book deals with a country that is now daily news and that the generation that was the author's age in the book now make up the generation (at least, the older one) that is fighting the civil war in Syria, makes this an important look at the factors that would cause that war. Abu Riad: "The Summer's nearly over...You can't spend your whole life on vacation! The Arab of the future goes to school."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    A memoir by a former cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo. Part to a French mother and Syrian father, it details his young childhood in Libya, Syria, and France as his father receives jobs as an associate professor. Told through a little boys eyes, we see the crazy, third-world conditions he grows up in under two dictators, first Gaddafi and then al-Aasad. It's as much his father's story as his own as he comes home and complains to his family every evening. His father was a complicated man, one of the o A memoir by a former cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo. Part to a French mother and Syrian father, it details his young childhood in Libya, Syria, and France as his father receives jobs as an associate professor. Told through a little boys eyes, we see the crazy, third-world conditions he grows up in under two dictators, first Gaddafi and then al-Aasad. It's as much his father's story as his own as he comes home and complains to his family every evening. His father was a complicated man, one of the only educated men in his family who could even read or write. He's blind to his many faults and contradictions as he tries to live something of a Western life in a Middle Eastern world. The art is very cartoonish, but I grew to enjoy it given the sometimes awful subject matter. The art reminded me of Life in Hell. As a trigger warning, there is some horrible animal abuse that is hard to take.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Another graphic novel of autobiographical slant (after ‘Maus’ and ‘Persepolis’). In this book Riad Sattouf presents his earliest youth (partly spent in France, Libya and Syria) and we tend to see everything through his innocent eyes, giving the story a neutral look, but clearly it is 'steered' by the writer Sattouf. This ambiguity is the real strength of this story, I think. Both in Libya (where the 'modernization' of Gaddafi rolls over the country) and in Syria (where the Assad dictatorship is Another graphic novel of autobiographical slant (after ‘Maus’ and ‘Persepolis’). In this book Riad Sattouf presents his earliest youth (partly spent in France, Libya and Syria) and we tend to see everything through his innocent eyes, giving the story a neutral look, but clearly it is 'steered' by the writer Sattouf. This ambiguity is the real strength of this story, I think. Both in Libya (where the 'modernization' of Gaddafi rolls over the country) and in Syria (where the Assad dictatorship is some dark, threatening force) the signs of 'backwardness' are highlighted: the chaos, the corruption, the filth in the public domain, weird traditionalist customs, anti-Semitism, the suffocating influence of religion, etc. Remarkably, Sattouf puts almost only negative elements in the spotlight, with the exception perhaps of the strength of family ties (and the warmth emanating from some of those family members). Does Sattouf express himself here as an anti-Arabist? You would almost think so, were it not that he also clearly portrays French Brittany (the home of his mother) as backward. An interesting story, in which the confrontation of different cultures seems to be the central theme. But there is one element that really bothered me: just like with ‘Maus’, the (Syrian) father of Riad plays the main role. Sattouf draws him as a very ambiguous figure: as a family man, who is very fond of Riad, but also as a man who, as the story progresses more and more distances himself from the modernity he has learned in France during his study time; a convinced pan-arabist also, who defends the harsh conditions in the Arab countries (all dictatorships) as self-evident own forms of modernity, and explains away the shocking things with which they are confronted (the backwardness). He even gradually becomes a cliché-macho-arab himself, snubbing his wife and children. Not so beautiful, that image of the father, and also very contrasting with the paleness of the mother who undergoes everything. Certainly the subdued behavior of women in general is absolutely the weakest element in this graphic novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I’ve been itching for a good comic book and this one delivered. Part of a trilogy originally in French, the book is a graphic memoir of Riad’s life. The son of a Syrian father and a French mother, he spends his early years between Libya, Syria and France as he encounters the absurdities of life in the Middle East. Gorgeously illustrated. –Kareem Shaheen from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r... I’ve been itching for a good comic book and this one delivered. Part of a trilogy originally in French, the book is a graphic memoir of Riad’s life. The son of a Syrian father and a French mother, he spends his early years between Libya, Syria and France as he encounters the absurdities of life in the Middle East. Gorgeously illustrated. –Kareem Shaheen from The Best Books We Read In January 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-r...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Oriana

    Jugs & Capes (my all-girl graphic-novel book club) has been hankering to read this one for awhile. We had really, really mixed opinions about it — this book has such an intense realism, illuminating lands with which none of us are familiar, but it does so in a remarkably damning, ugly way. At club we talked a lot about the responsibility of the artist: whether a member of a marginalized group is required to consider and/or represent the entire vast spectrum of that group in his or her creative w Jugs & Capes (my all-girl graphic-novel book club) has been hankering to read this one for awhile. We had really, really mixed opinions about it — this book has such an intense realism, illuminating lands with which none of us are familiar, but it does so in a remarkably damning, ugly way. At club we talked a lot about the responsibility of the artist: whether a member of a marginalized group is required to consider and/or represent the entire vast spectrum of that group in his or her creative work, and what the consequences can be if he or she does not. We talked about racism, and Orientalism, and colonialism, and of course we also talked about Sattouf's simplistic but very effectively realistic drawing style, and whether the sins and mannerisms of the father will always and ever be visited upon the son. It was strange, later, to read the New Yorker profile of Sattouf from a few years ago, because it contends with all those subjects and issues too. Which makes me feel a) like my smart ladyfriends are right on the pulse of the philosophy and cultural criticism of the moment, but also that b) there is nothing new under the sun, and we are all only ever parroting things we've read and then drawing the same conclusions everyone else does when they digest the same thoughts from the same sources. I dunno. But also I will add that, because we are a group of very smart ladies, we also discussed two incredible frustrations that did not at all appear in the New Yorker piece (which, uh, just happened to be written by a man): First, the fact that in all these many many exhaustively detailed pages we never get even the vaguest sense about what Sattouf's mother thinks or feels about the lot she's drawn in life (although we did get the internet to tell us that she eventually left the marriage, which, my god how could she possibly not have). Second, how maddening it is that someone like Sattouf, or like Karl Ove Knausgaard, or like so so many Important Literary Men, gets to endlessly meander with the utmost self-importance through the gruelingly mundane minutia of his entire life over the course of (far too) many books, whereas when was the last time a woman got a multi-book deal on the idea of just, you know, talking about every single piddling detail of her life? Not ever, probably. Anyway, here's what we ate at club, from date bars to blood oranges to key lime pie, om nom nom:

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brown Girl Reading

    L'Arabe du Futur is an excellent recounting of the first 6 years of Riad Sattouf's life. We follow his family from France to Libya and to Syria. We are introduced to the difficulties of life in Libya and Syria and all of the cultural differences and the challenges for Riad to fit in and to speak Arabic. The absurdities and horrors of life living in these countries will make you laugh, outraged, and sorrowful. Sattouf tells the story with blatant honesty. There are many times when you won't belie L'Arabe du Futur is an excellent recounting of the first 6 years of Riad Sattouf's life. We follow his family from France to Libya and to Syria. We are introduced to the difficulties of life in Libya and Syria and all of the cultural differences and the challenges for Riad to fit in and to speak Arabic. The absurdities and horrors of life living in these countries will make you laugh, outraged, and sorrowful. Sattouf tells the story with blatant honesty. There are many times when you won't believe it and you'll just shake your head in awe. It was interesting and I enjoyed discovering these countries from the 'real' inside. However on the downside, I didn't appreciate that his mother's character figured on most of the pages and didn't say much. She was totally underdeveloped which i felt wasn't very realistic, considering some of the tight spots they were living in. The story essentially revolves around Riad and his father. So I assume his silent mother was done on purpose but I'm not really sure why. Even so, I am looking forward to reading part 2, which I hope won't take too long to be released. It's definitely worthwhile reading.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    Something you might not know about me, is that as a kid born and raised in Kenya, I was a huge fan of Muammar Gaddafi. Huge. He was one of the African leaders who created the hope that we would end Imperialism and all its vices in Africa. Well, things did not quite go as planned, but, I think it is important to not gloss over the things we believed in our childhood, as they affect how we develop our world views as adults. This graphic memoir is set in France, Libya and Syria, and we learn about t Something you might not know about me, is that as a kid born and raised in Kenya, I was a huge fan of Muammar Gaddafi. Huge. He was one of the African leaders who created the hope that we would end Imperialism and all its vices in Africa. Well, things did not quite go as planned, but, I think it is important to not gloss over the things we believed in our childhood, as they affect how we develop our world views as adults. This graphic memoir is set in France, Libya and Syria, and we learn about the childhood of the author and his family as they navigate various cultures, religions, and political landscapes. The author's father is a Sunni Arab who married a French woman, and like many immigrants, he is a contradiction that many people find hard to understand. His father is quite Western and modern in some ways, but also retains much of the values and prejudices he acquired as a child, and like all kids born into cultures not of their parents, the author grapples with these contradictions. The art is quite basic and sketchy, but I loved the way the author uses color in his panels. I really enjoyed the exploration of different cultures/religions/environments from the point of view of a child, but filtered through adult eyes. This is a rather straightforward memoir, but it is the honest look at these situations that suck the reader in, and reminds us of how much that happens to children is really because of parental whims, and how much our family histories influence the adults we become. It is not often that we get an insider look into the lives of ordinary people from these parts of the world, and I hope the author's other works will also be translated into English. I highly recommend this one.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ammar

    My first graphic novel of 2017. Riad Sattouf takes us on a magic carpet toward his childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. He draws his childhood in a cartoonish way under the shadow of Gaddafi, Hafez Assad, and his father. We see the world through his eyes. The eyes of a blonde boy struggling with the Middle East and have no idea what is going on around him. I enjoyed the drawings, the political interpretations and the way media is used in this memoir. The way he draws the news reels and the rad My first graphic novel of 2017. Riad Sattouf takes us on a magic carpet toward his childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. He draws his childhood in a cartoonish way under the shadow of Gaddafi, Hafez Assad, and his father. We see the world through his eyes. The eyes of a blonde boy struggling with the Middle East and have no idea what is going on around him. I enjoyed the drawings, the political interpretations and the way media is used in this memoir. The way he draws the news reels and the radio news and I could totally hear the anchors saying the news. I can't wait to read volume two

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (Insert Lit Pun)

    Surprised by how much I loved this one - funny, sharp, and thought-provoking. The author's father is Syrian and his mother is French, and he spent different parts of his childhood in Libya, France, and Syria. There's so much to mull over in here - the way Sattouf depicts childhood (and how children perceive different cultures), the nutso but fascinating portrait of his father, and the way that the political and the personal intersect. And, as a bonus, my sense of humor meshed perfectly with Satt Surprised by how much I loved this one - funny, sharp, and thought-provoking. The author's father is Syrian and his mother is French, and he spent different parts of his childhood in Libya, France, and Syria. There's so much to mull over in here - the way Sattouf depicts childhood (and how children perceive different cultures), the nutso but fascinating portrait of his father, and the way that the political and the personal intersect. And, as a bonus, my sense of humor meshed perfectly with Sattouf's, so I laughed a ton. Highly recommended.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    The Arab of the Future is bound to draw comparisons to its predecessors in the field of graphic novels. It is an expansive memoir of Riad Sattouf's childhood spent bouncing between Libya, Syria and France, following his expatriate father. Comparisons have already been drawn between this graphic novel and Persepolis, another comic about a childhood in the middle east, but I found that The Arab of the Future packs a more potent punch. The story here is told from Sattouf's perspective as he begins The Arab of the Future is bound to draw comparisons to its predecessors in the field of graphic novels. It is an expansive memoir of Riad Sattouf's childhood spent bouncing between Libya, Syria and France, following his expatriate father. Comparisons have already been drawn between this graphic novel and Persepolis, another comic about a childhood in the middle east, but I found that The Arab of the Future packs a more potent punch. The story here is told from Sattouf's perspective as he begins to develop as a child in a world that is very different from the one in which I grew up. By virtue of having Riad's narrative counterpart being a child, the graphic novel is predominantly focused on his father. Born and raised in Syria, Riad's father remembers his home country's landscape and values with an idyllic sheen of nostalgia. Of course, as he returns to the land of his youth with his family, Abdul finds everything to not be as he remembered. As the family moves back and forth between countries, the tension between his father's education and upbringing come into subtle conflict throughout the story. Rather than have the conflict boil down into a concise and unidirectional argument, Sattouf opts for a more complex view of both his childhood and his father's politics. Abdul is a conflicted man full of contradiction, but that helps to make him seem as if he could walk off the page and into real life. For that, the story is much more rewarding in that Riad Sattouf's seems fully realized, much like Art Spiegelman's father in Maus. Sattouf's art tends towards the more cartoony, but depicts his characters with convincing facial expressions and beautifully rendered landscapes. What's more, the graphic novel shifts in its single-palate colour depending on which country in which the story is taking place. So, for France we see a blue background, while Syria is pink/red. The colours are well chosen as they complement the proceedings of the story, as well as help to convey atmosphere when appropriate. All in all, this is an exceptionally strong graphic novel that is of major relevance to today's political climate. I came away with a richer understanding of the culture and conflict in the Syria and Libya, but was at no point bogged down by huge passages of exposition. For fans of Spiegelman, Sacco, and Gene Luen Yang, you'll find a lot to love in this beautiful graphic novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    Sattouf's childhood is the stage on which the events of the novel play out. From the nascent regime of Gaddafi to the more insidious, but no less dangerous regime of Assad, Sattouf uses an acerbic humour to explore life in three dictatorships, two political and the third under his increasingly despotic father; whilst the former two are far more dangerous and have a far bigger impact on the wider world, the latter defines the small world which defines Sattouf's childhood. Sattouf is able to naviga Sattouf's childhood is the stage on which the events of the novel play out. From the nascent regime of Gaddafi to the more insidious, but no less dangerous regime of Assad, Sattouf uses an acerbic humour to explore life in three dictatorships, two political and the third under his increasingly despotic father; whilst the former two are far more dangerous and have a far bigger impact on the wider world, the latter defines the small world which defines Sattouf's childhood. Sattouf is able to navigate the murky waters of both living in a regime which actively oppresses its people via the cult of personality of two very different strongmen without coming across as sententious. In fact, his jocose narrative style only serves to further highlight the absurdity of dictatorship, of the increasing irrationality of his father's thoughts which increasingly echo the parochial views of the two regimes.  This is partially driven by the fact that much of the story is told from the point-of-view of a child who s unable to fully grasp the complexities of the world around him.  On the other hand, Sattouf's seemingly long suffering mother is left almost voiceless as she attempts to fit into worlds which are completely alien to her for the sake of her husband. 'The  Arab of The Future' as an interesting, entertaining and thought provoking exploration of life under two autocratic regimes, of an essentially rootless childhood which is dominated by a sense of displacement and of a family who feel adrift in a sea near constant change and strife. 

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    In this graphic memoir, the first of an ongoing series, young Riad Sattouf's view of the world is sometimes funny, sometimes traumatic (there is a particularly violent and upsetting scene in the end of the book, fair warning). Born in France, then to Libya, then to Syria, we see a child's view of the regions and the cultures. Riad and his mother are toted around at the whim of his father, a strongly opinionated and prejudiced academic. One of the reviews on the back cover states that young Riad In this graphic memoir, the first of an ongoing series, young Riad Sattouf's view of the world is sometimes funny, sometimes traumatic (there is a particularly violent and upsetting scene in the end of the book, fair warning). Born in France, then to Libya, then to Syria, we see a child's view of the regions and the cultures. Riad and his mother are toted around at the whim of his father, a strongly opinionated and prejudiced academic. One of the reviews on the back cover states that young Riad lives under three dictators: Gaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, and his father all the time. Sattouf uses a traditional cartoon style drawing, and it is a great fit for this tale. He also employs three different coloring schemes to help the reader with locations and time periods - blue for a France, yellow for Libya, and pink for Syria. Three further volumes are out in French and now also translated into English. I'll definitely be reading those too.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Roxana Chirilă

    The funny thing about autobiographies, even when they're about distant lands and people we don't know much about, is that they're still subjective and personal. You can't write an autobiography that will present the entirety of the world around you objectively. You cannot represent your whole society all by your lonesome. That being said, this is an account of the very early years spent by the author in Libya, France and Syria - but also the story of his father, an Arab who studied in France to The funny thing about autobiographies, even when they're about distant lands and people we don't know much about, is that they're still subjective and personal. You can't write an autobiography that will present the entirety of the world around you objectively. You cannot represent your whole society all by your lonesome. That being said, this is an account of the very early years spent by the author in Libya, France and Syria - but also the story of his father, an Arab who studied in France to get his ph.D. and who married a French woman. The child Riad has a spark of intelligence, but is easily impressed by those around him - he can draw decently (no surprise there), he thinks his father is Amazing (even when, as adults, we realize he's definitely not) and tries to fit in with peers. It might be said, though, that the emulation of other people's behavior is one of the themes of the novel. Little Riad is encouraged by the Syrian women in his family's circle to engage in violent play with other boys, and he finds it enjoyable. The children around him emulate adults' violent behavior. Ideas seem to travel around, transmitted from mind to mind. His father comes across as sympathetic when we meet him - a young Syrian obsessed with becoming a "doctor", who wants to change the world back home. But after he gets married, obtains his degree and moves to Libya, then Syria, we come to see his refusal to notice the world around him as it is, and his idealism as empty. He ignores the cracks in the walls of his house, his children living in squalor, the violence of the society he grew up in (maybe precisely because he grew up in it). The mother, however, is a silent figure - while she protests about the homes they end up living in, she says little about their moving to Syria, or staying there. We don't know about her dreams and desires, nor even about why she married him. The Arab world is portrayed as bleak, violent, lacking in refinement and education. If there are undercurrents to it, we don't know them, as little Riad barely speaks the language, and is a constant outsider. It's an interesting outlook even so, especially as the author offers us not just his memories of what the world was like, but gives us more historical context, and an adult commentary on what he lived.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    The title is serious as is the book. If we didn't know the future of little Riad it would be hard to guess, but the future of his cousins is clear. This doesn't have the punch of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima or Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History, which portray everyday people in big moments of history. Sattouf describes the day to day drone of life under dictatorship. He shows his father's cognitive dissonance as he t The title is serious as is the book. If we didn't know the future of little Riad it would be hard to guess, but the future of his cousins is clear. This doesn't have the punch of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Barefoot Gen, Volume One: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima or Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History, which portray everyday people in big moments of history. Sattouf describes the day to day drone of life under dictatorship. He shows his father's cognitive dissonance as he tries to ignore the reality that doesn't fit his beliefs. His poor mother! It's hard to understand her. Is she trapped, resigned or fully committed to her impossible husband?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alice Rachel

    I hated this book. The depiction of anyone who isn't French is extremely negative and insulting. There isn't a character in this book who isn't either a racist, or a sexist pig, or a homophobe. Except for French people who are presented as clean, smelling good, and smart. Everyone else is either dirty, violent, or stupid. If this isn't propaganda, I don't know what is! The only interesting aspect of this book was to see how dictatorships work, how they hurt people, starve them, brainwash them, an I hated this book. The depiction of anyone who isn't French is extremely negative and insulting. There isn't a character in this book who isn't either a racist, or a sexist pig, or a homophobe. Except for French people who are presented as clean, smelling good, and smart. Everyone else is either dirty, violent, or stupid. If this isn't propaganda, I don't know what is! The only interesting aspect of this book was to see how dictatorships work, how they hurt people, starve them, brainwash them, and take so much from them. The only thing I liked was how this book insisted upon the importance of education! Sadly, that was often repeated by the dad who is himself a racist imbecile. I hated every character in this book. The author managed to corrupt the innocent voice of the narrator (a child) by showing him to be nothing more than a racist. This book depicts a bleak, awful picture of the human race without any sort of redemption.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Suad Shamma

    I really can't decide how I feel about this book. I can't put my feelings into words. I gave it 4 stars because the graphics are great, and the sarcasm/humor is on point. No one can say otherwise. However, being an Arab and a Muslim myself, I feel torn about where I stand. Yes, this is a satiric account of a boy's life moving around between Libya, Syria and France. A boy who was born to a Syrian father and a French mother. It bothered me how acquiescent the mother seemed to be, it was actually q I really can't decide how I feel about this book. I can't put my feelings into words. I gave it 4 stars because the graphics are great, and the sarcasm/humor is on point. No one can say otherwise. However, being an Arab and a Muslim myself, I feel torn about where I stand. Yes, this is a satiric account of a boy's life moving around between Libya, Syria and France. A boy who was born to a Syrian father and a French mother. It bothered me how acquiescent the mother seemed to be, it was actually quite annoying. For someone who is not Arab and was not raised in the Middle East, to give up her life so readily for an extremely politically opinionated Syrian man and live the life she has (according to Riad's account that is), it was frustrating. He portrayed her as a woman without a voice. Of course, this is only his account, and I can't be sure how credible or accurate it all is. I mean, we are talking about the life of a boy from the age of 2 to the age of about 6 years old. How can he remember his life at that age in such detail? And if he didn't and this is all based on experiences described by his family (mom, dad, grandparents etc.), then how accurate are those memories? Everyone remembers the same incident differently, so you can never actually be sure. In that sense, this memoir immediately loses some of its credibility. On the other hand, there's the whole idea of simply taking things at face value and learning to laugh at oneself. And that's something Arabs are not very good at doing. We don't know how to laugh at ourselves and not take things too seriously. Myself included. We don't know how to be satirical or ironic, and those who do - such as Riad here - are always judged and looked at with mild disdain. We also tend to quickly take offense and attack. This book is full of satire, that's for sure. It highlights some key traditions and customs of Arabs - specifically Muslims. Such as the prayers and eating together and so on. I found myself having to constantly remind myself that this is a memoir dating back to early 1980s when things were very different back then. The fact is, nothing portrayed in the book is completely out of line (except we don't go around beating animals or killing them, even Arabs are horrified by those children's actions), and yet I still caught myself occasionally being offended. I've finished reading this book and I've made a conscious decision not to go looking for the other installments.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    I read graphic books so rarely, but every time I do pick one up I wonder why I don’t read more. Maybe it’s because usually only the most acclaimed and, presumably, high quality ones reach me. Whatever the case, this first volume of Riad Sattouf’s graphic memoir about his childhood growing up in Libya, Syria and France is absolutely mesmerising. It depicts his experiences under the parentage of his academic Syrian father Abdul-Razak and his French mother Clementine. His father’s ideals and pride I read graphic books so rarely, but every time I do pick one up I wonder why I don’t read more. Maybe it’s because usually only the most acclaimed and, presumably, high quality ones reach me. Whatever the case, this first volume of Riad Sattouf’s graphic memoir about his childhood growing up in Libya, Syria and France is absolutely mesmerising. It depicts his experiences under the parentage of his academic Syrian father Abdul-Razak and his French mother Clementine. His father’s ideals and pride about his heritage are complicated by the real world challenges he and his family encounter living under the rule of Gaddafi in early 80s Libya and Hafez al-Assad’s Syria a few years later. Gradually his principles change and he aspires to fashion his young blonde-haired son Riad into the Arab of the future. Read my full review of The Arab of the Future by Riad Sattouf on LonesomeReader

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    It seems that the Middle Eastern memoir graphic novel is proliferating. I've lost count of how many I've read over the past couple of years. I'm not sure if more of them are being published, or just that more of them are being released in English translations after Marjane Satrapi's success. I'm not complaining, just curious. So, as the subtitle implies, this is Riad's story of growing up in Libya and Syria, so his family got to experience the rule of both Gaddafi AND Assad. It appears that it w It seems that the Middle Eastern memoir graphic novel is proliferating. I've lost count of how many I've read over the past couple of years. I'm not sure if more of them are being published, or just that more of them are being released in English translations after Marjane Satrapi's success. I'm not complaining, just curious. So, as the subtitle implies, this is Riad's story of growing up in Libya and Syria, so his family got to experience the rule of both Gaddafi AND Assad. It appears that it was every bit as fun as you'd imagine. The story is as much the story of Riad's father as it is himself. A Syrian student at a Paris university, he fell in love and started a family. After earning his doctorate, he moved his family to Libya, and then later to Syria. The story is told from Riad's point of view, though filtered through an adult's perceptions. Although there are grimmer aspects to the story, it's also leavened with humor. I found myself feeling sorry for Riad's father, who comes off as a flamboyant optimist and something of a dreamer, blind to his own faults. Alas, dreams and optimism don't always fare well in reality. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and Sattouf's art and storytelling skills are masterful enough that I was definitely feeling something of the child Riad's anxiety at his situation. This is supposedly Riad Sattouf's first work translated into English. I hope it is the first of many.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    Everything is awful and everyone is horrible! This is not a light read, and it has heapings of both bullying and animal abuse. (This is not necessarily a problem for me, I was severely bullied as a child but in general I am OK reading about it. Just stating because your mileage might seriously vary.) It also has the annoying French / Franco-Belgian / (also somewhat Nordic) comics tendency of showing a lot of "politically incorrect" things and while presented as bad, still kind of reveling in show Everything is awful and everyone is horrible! This is not a light read, and it has heapings of both bullying and animal abuse. (This is not necessarily a problem for me, I was severely bullied as a child but in general I am OK reading about it. Just stating because your mileage might seriously vary.) It also has the annoying French / Franco-Belgian / (also somewhat Nordic) comics tendency of showing a lot of "politically incorrect" things and while presented as bad, still kind of reveling in showing them. Here this often coincides with the Western gaze, so I can totally see why the book became a smashing success. Plus it has the trope "angelic blonde child abused by swarthy brutes". Yes, it is ownvoices, it is a memoir so ownvoices by default. But it plays into those tropes very strongly IMO. (You get content warnings about ableism, anti-Semitism, misogyny and cheerful authoritarianism.) I will probably read the next volume too, I got it from the library together with this one, but with the critical distance I'd recommend. (For the record, Oh my G-D i am not claiming that any of the dictatorships depicted were good in any way, they were dictatorships!! I was a child in a much milder dictatorship literally called "the happiest barrack" and I wouldn't recommend that either! I am just simply stating that this book very eagerly feeds a myriad stereotypes, even ones not about Arabs - e.g., that Indians constantly smell of strange food. So I'd tackle it with caution.)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tova

    Male Persepolis, but in Syria and Libya. I'm interested to see where this story goes in the next four volumes. Male Persepolis, but in Syria and Libya. I'm interested to see where this story goes in the next four volumes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf, translated by Sam Taylor, is Sattouf’s memoir in the form of a graphic novel. This first book in the trilogy describes Sattouf’s early childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. It opens when he is two years old and concludes when he is the ripe old age of six. Born of a French mother and Syrian father, Sattouf experiences life in France, in Gaddafi’s Libya, and in Hafez Al-Assad’s Syria. He describe The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf, translated by Sam Taylor, is Sattouf’s memoir in the form of a graphic novel. This first book in the trilogy describes Sattouf’s early childhood in France, Libya, and Syria. It opens when he is two years old and concludes when he is the ripe old age of six. Born of a French mother and Syrian father, Sattouf experiences life in France, in Gaddafi’s Libya, and in Hafez Al-Assad’s Syria. He describes the sights, smells, sounds, and events with unflinching honesty and innocence, without judgement, and through the unfiltered perception and inquisitiveness of a child. And that is what makes this graphic memoir so compelling because what Sattouf witnesses and describes so innocently can cause one to recoil in horror. Educated in France where he met his future wife, Sattouf’s father takes a job as an associate professor in Libya. While there, Riad learns that in Gaddafi’s Libya homes are free and their doors cannot be locked. He also learns homes are a free-for all in which a family outing can result in the loss of one’s home since even a temporarily vacant home is considered available for occupation by strangers. Food is in short supply; poverty is rampant; and the whole country looks as if it is under construction. From Libya, Riad’s father moves his family to Syria to be near his relatives. Riad’s blond hair attracts admiration from some and ridicule from others. He is bullied mercilessly and labeled a Jew by neighborhood street gangs, later revealed to be his cousins. He witnesses horrifying acts of cruelty to animals; child abuse; gender, racial, and religious discrimination; othering; and violence. A crumbling infrastructure and a stifling atmosphere permeated with pollution and the smell of raw sewage rounds up his experience in Syria. The novel concludes with the family returning to Syria after spending their summer vacation in France. As a former contributor to the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf is well versed in satire. Because he speaks through the innocent voice of a child in the novel, his narrative is laced with irony and satire. The young Riad is an unreliable narrator who does not comprehend the import of his words. He idolizes his father who, in actuality, is a conflicted individual with a distorted self-image and delusional visions of reality. His mother is portrayed as a voiceless non-entity. The poverty, the stench, the bizarre behavior of his relatives, the abuse, and the bullying are all described through the eye of a naïve child trying to make sense of bewildering situations. The observations are authentic, unfiltered, and presented with unabashed honesty. Just as is the case with the text, Sattouf’s illustrations are expressive and exaggerate the predominant quality of a person’s features and/or surroundings. He is a skilled cartoonist and a skilled story teller with an ability to expose the disturbing elements, the poverty, the corruption, and the chaos of Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria as seen through the eyes of innocence. But while the novel highlights some traditional Muslim behaviors, it bears remembering that many of these behaviors are taken out of context, grossly exaggerated, and do not reflect Muslim behavior or attitudes either then or now. Recommended with reservations.

  30. 5 out of 5

    But_i_thought_

    If you are a fan of graphic novel memoirs along the lines of Perspolis and Maus, then this volume by Riad Sattouf makes a worthy addition to your collection. Born in 1978 to a French mother and Syrian father, Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood spent in France, Libya and later Syria. Using a lively cartoonist style, each country is depicted in the hues of its national flag, emphasizing the emotional undercurrents of the situation – France is blue with red accents, Libya yellow with green accen If you are a fan of graphic novel memoirs along the lines of Perspolis and Maus, then this volume by Riad Sattouf makes a worthy addition to your collection. Born in 1978 to a French mother and Syrian father, Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood spent in France, Libya and later Syria. Using a lively cartoonist style, each country is depicted in the hues of its national flag, emphasizing the emotional undercurrents of the situation – France is blue with red accents, Libya yellow with green accents, Syria red with green accents. Since this volume charts the author’s early childhood experiences from ages 2 to 6, it is not surprising that his reflections are fleeting and impressionistic, infused with the primal sensations of smell and taste. Libya is the smell of oranges, sweat and dust, the taste of bananas and wild mulberries. France is a place of perfume and night-time ghosts. Syria a place of brawls and ruins, the bitter taste of olives. Occasions for humour arise when the narrator combines disparate concepts with the fluid logic of a child. In one scene, his mother mentions that George Brassens – a singer whose cassettes they listen to – is very famous. “In France, he’s a god”, she says. Sattouf does not understand the concept of God at age three, but forms the mental picture of Brassens whenever he hears about God in subsequent conversations. While the political context of the early 80s forms the backbone to the narrative – from Gaddafi’s socialist vision to Assad’s sectarian regime – it’s Sattouf’s personal story that dominates. His father is the hero of the story, a colourful, larger-than-life figure full of contradictions – a self-professed secularist bridled by superstition, a man deeply dogmatic but strangely disarming. His home country Syria is a similar knot of incongruities – a place where mothers smother their toddlers with kisses on roof tops, but neighbourhood cousins decapitate plastic toys with kitchen knives and torture animals for fun. The overall reading experience is as immersive as it is unsettling. This book is the first installment in an ongoing series on Sattouf’s life (currently comprising 3 books available in English), leading up to the current political climate. Mood: Immersive Rating: 8.5/10 Also on Instagram.

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