cover image Hakim’s Odyssey, Book 1: From Syria to Turkey

Hakim’s Odyssey, Book 1: From Syria to Turkey

Fabien Toulmé, trans. from the French by Hannah Chute. Graphic Mundi, $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-63779-000-7

It’s profoundly disturbing how quickly a typical, middle-class life can be violently disrupted, as Toulmé shows in the harrowing, frustrating saga of Hakim, who fled Syria during the country’s ongoing civil war. Hakim, whom Toulmé interviewed in order to adapt his story into a comic, is 25 at the beginning of the Arab Spring protests in 2011, when he’s arrested and tortured during a government crackdown. Once freed, Hakim tries to settle in Beirut, Amman, and Antalya, living with relatives and high school friends. Along the way, he falls in love and repeatedly encounters the prejudice of locals toward Syrian refugees. Though he was once a business owner, it’s incredibly difficult for him to find work even as a menial laborer. Toulmé adeptly captures how Hakim’s life slides into sudden chaos, as well as his maddening inability to find consistent work. Visually, Toulmé’s art recalls Riad Sattouf’s Arab of the Future, though doesn’t quite rise to its nuanced characterizations. Toulmé too often inserts himself into the narrative, reminding readers of his role as interviewer and interpreting the significance of Hakim’s story and, in doing so, breaks its narrative flow. Meanwhile, sections laying out the larger geopolitical backdrop end up feeling rather didactic. Despite some flaws, Hakim’s story adds to the growing body of graphic literature on the refugee experience, with insightful perspective on how an ordinary life can crumble. (Oct.)