Title: Burma Chronicles
Writer and Artist: Guy Delisle
Delisle's wife Nadège is a doctor with Doctors Without Borders, referred to in the book by their French name, Medécins sans Frontières (MSF). She was assigned to a clinic in Burma (recognized by the UN as Myamar), primarily to combat malaria but to offer general medical aid as well. Guy was initially a stay-at-home dad for their son Louis but once a nanny was hired, he was able to resume his cartooning career. Burma Chronicles recounts his adventures both large and small in adapting to an isolated and impenetrable country.
I really enjoy Delisle's ex-pat perspective. Anyone who has lived in a foreign country knows that the experience is entirely different from just traveling through. The tourist sights aren't such a big deal. The challenges of building a life are what you remember. For instance, Guy has great affection for supermarkets as a window into culture. I also easily identified with his observation that people would ignore him on the street unless his son was with him. Of course, that happens on native soil, too!
Delisle does not pull his punches regarding the military junta that rules the country. While Rangoon comes off as a quiet and safe city for the most part, the silence is born of brutal government suppression. When MSF and other international organizations are banned from certain parts of the country, the prevailing assumption is that the regime is cracking down and doesn't want witnesses. In theory, the ex-pat community is above the fray but Guy can't help worrying about the Burmese friends he makes.
The book is essentially a collection of vignettes rather than one continuous narrative. A few of the chapters, including tales of the family's side trips, are entirely wordless. Some of the stories are quite funny, others heart-wrenching. While Delisle's book did nothing to entice me to move to Burma, I'm certainly interested in exploring his other travel works.
Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month. This month's link list is below. I'll keep it open until the end of the day. I'll post September's tomorrow. Meetings are the last Friday of each month. Next gathering is September 27th.