Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Hostage by Guy Delisle

Hostage written and illustrated by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher

In early July, 1997, Christophe Andre was kidnapped from his Doctors without Borders office in Nazran, a town in the former Soviet Republic of Ingushetia. His kidnappers took him to Chechnya where they tried to get a million dollar ransom for Andre. This book is the story of his captivity from his own perspective. As such, there's a lot of waiting around with almost no information or changes in the situation. Christophe is handcuffed to a radiator or a bed or the floor for a great deal of the 400+ pages of this graphic novel. The monotony and the desperate speculations about what is going on outside of his prison are easily communicated in the graphic novel format. The same routine is repeated over and over, but readers don't get bored because the visual format moves faster than real time and lets the reader experience months of captivity without becoming bored. Even the smallest changes in routine or noises outside the room (Christophe is typically held in spare rooms of apartments or houses, with the occasional move between locations) become fodder for speculation or even hope that the situation will finally resolve.

Despite the grim topic, I found this a fascinating tale told in a way that acknowledges the boredom but is very compelling and is not boring. Readers identify with Christophe's mood swings and his speculations about what is going on and his feelings about his captors. Christophe manages to keep his sanity in an extremely trying experience. The grey-scale art fits perfectly with the darkened rooms and hard mood of the true story.


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