Guy Delisle, 432 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $32.95
If you’re looking for a high-octane, action-packed, hostage thriller, I would sooner recommend Pierre Morel’s 2008 classic Taken over Guy Delisle’s Hostage. If you’re instead hungry for a look into the deterioration of human bodies and minds in the face of isolation, alienation, and detainment, Delisle’s got you covered.
Deslie’s graphic novel conveys intimate human experiences in a simple style. From the sparse and beautifully drab cover to the earliest pages of Hostage, this biographical retelling of Christophé Andrew’s kidnapping while working for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) glitters with the familiar tension of a devilishly satisfying thriller. And yet, the narrative shifts away from the juicy “real-life” story we may have anticipated from the tantalizing cover and opening page. Instead, we are served a quietly unexpected discussion on the transience of our own agency.
Every page of Hostage is rendered completely in damp blues and greys with short streaks of white. Delisle denies any reprieve from the monotony of Christophé’s captivity except in short-lived moments of sunlight, a fried egg, new nameless faces, or the tiniest of garlic cloves. How amazing is a garlic clove? For captive Andrew, it’s super amazing: “over the next hours, I image every detail of how I’m going to savour this little wonder. My mouth is watering.”
Through a minimalist approach in illustration, colour, and text, Delisle molds our voyeurism into a collective experience: the tortuous collapse of Christophé’s psychological and physical health. Delisle’s Hostage is a well-crafted and arresting account of the kidnapping of Christophé Andrew. This is an engrossing read for fans and new readers alike.