A Childhood in Panels
Riad Sattouf and Kristian Krohg-Sørensen
How do you draw your own childhood? In his three volume autobiographical and graphic novel The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East (translated into Norwegian by Alexander Leborg), this is exactly what Riad Sattouf has done. In a simple yet expressive style, he tells a complex childhood story from the 70s and 80s, moving from Paris to Libya at two years old, and later to Syria, with his Syrian father and French mother.
In the tradition of such graphic novelists as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Sattouf combines a decidedly cartoonic style with serious subject matter. Through the child’s perspective, we witness a humorous, confusing and terrifying meeting with an unknown culture where a language, daily life and the society seems strange and new. The gap between the grown reader’s insight and the child’s attempt at making sense of what he sees around him is a distinct one – as is the gap between modernity and tradition, cultural conflicts and differing political views.
The child Riad accounts the political realities and the authoritarian government through the TV screen’s news about Gaddafi, while his parents offer very different explanations of how the world works. Sattouf draws a complex portrait of his father, a hero and an idol for his son, while the reader witness the father’s gradual change.
Sattouf is an internationally acclaimed graphic novelist. He has been awarded the prestigious Fauve d’Or i Angoulême twice, the US Eisner Award and the Norwegian Sproing Prize for best translated comic. At the House of Literature, Sattouf will meet journalist and cartoonist Kristian Krohg-Sørensen, who will publish a historical graphic novel about the Russian revolution this fall.