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Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Arrival

Artist and writer: Shaun Tan
Publisher: Lothian Books

A comic without words, The Arrival's art is further towards the fine art end of the spectrum than the cartooning end and it makes a beguiling story.

A man packs his suitcase, says goodbye to his family, and sails away to a new country. The alphabet is strange, the wildlife is creepy, and the everyday systems are near incomprehensible. Our man has to find lodgings, a job and friends.

The strength of this book lies in how Tan brings us into the immigrant's world, and we become as baffled as he is. As our man forges a new life we become more comfortable with the country and less scared of it. In the aftermath of the UK's Brexit decision I think more people should read this book.

The art deserves to be read slowly. Take your time over it. I tend to speed read things, but in doing that I miss the pacing of this story - I miss the breaths in between the moments, and I miss the sense of a life lived. Some pages cover just a few seconds or minutes of our man's life, others cover whole seasons. Each is important to feel part of the story and the book becomes richer if you read it properly.

Each character's appearance is drawn as a portrait would be; by that I mean that Tan has taken care to show each character's personality and history in their face. It is lovely to see this level of care.

From the praise on the sleeve:
"The Arrival is beautiful. I loved how it slowly dawned on me that this bizarre world was how any immigrant might see the new place they go... everything is different and scary and magical. The drawings are just so lovely, endlessly detailed and wonderfully strange. And the design of the book, with its wrinkled pages and stains and broken leather is marvellous, Bravo." Brian Selznick.

"The reader's experience, as he or she tries to make sense of the unfamiliar scenes and strange images, parallels that of the emigrant, striving to understand without the aid of language. This extraordinarily accomplished piece of storytelling can be read and understood on many different levels." The Guardian.

ISBN: 978-0-7344-1586-8
Price: £10.99

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