cover image The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984–1985

The Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984–1985

Riad Sattouf, trans. from the French by Sam Taylor. Metropolitan, $26 (176p) ISBN 978-1-62779-351-3

In the second volume of an acclaimed five-part graphic memoir, originally published in France, cartoonist Sattouf captures the discomfiting and occasionally humorous details of his first year in school in a Syria that is casually anti-Semitic and not particularly kind to anyone. Minor infractions against social norms are met with violence, and major infractions are met with much, much worse. Because everything filters through a six-year-old boy’s point of view, the more disturbing moments that Sattouf recounts aren’t bleak so much as confusing, surreal, and sad. The humor is pitch-black, the characters vivid: Nidal, a young boy who sits by his father’s grave and, because of a nervous tic, can’t stop laughing like Woody Woodpecker; a devout schoolteacher with a kindly face who takes particular delight in meting out corporal punishment. Sattouf is a master of visual storytelling, capable of compressing a great deal of human emotion and contradictions within a few panels. He creates a searing depiction of growing up poor in a country ruled by corruption and religious zealotry. (Sept.)