The central character of this magnificent comic book, the designer himself, was only 2 years old. Product of a Breton mother, in love ready to follow her husband to the end of the world and of a Syrian father, a brilliant student at the Sorbonne soon to graduate with a doctorate in contemporary history, the fair-haired boy awakens to the world and brings it back to us in his own way , emotional sponge wandering through several cultures.
Trip to Gaddafi's Libya
His progenitor, annoyed by the 'honorable' mention given to his thesis (prepared so hard for 8 years) by the Tricolor University, then by the spelling errors inflicted on his name by the other great European schools, ended up by accepting a post in Tripoli, in the Libya of Gaddafi (in power from 1969 to 2011). Le petit Riad, after Parisian life, discovers a country in which the houses have no locks and are habitable by anyone as long as they are empty (which greatly thwarts plans for family walks since, no is not it, someone must always stay guard the house).
A country which seems to be under construction but which, in fact, already only looks like it. Because the Jamahiriya ("State of the masses") - decreed in 1977 by Muammar Kadhafi, the killer of royalty - quickly turned to personal dictatorship.
Through the astonished gaze of this kid in front of the noisy queues in front of the cooperatives which (admittedly) always distribute the same food for free (“more bananas?” “The Guide loves bananas, they are the fruit of the people!”) Or well in front of this adored father who tries somehow, after reading the Green Book, to convince of his total adhesion with the ideas exposed by the Guide of the Revolution, even the most eccentric.
The personal memories evoked by the designer are never in vain and always hit the mark.
Growing up in Al-Assad's Syria
Thus, when the whole family moves to Syria, the shock of the toddler to be confronted with the giant and disturbing portraits "of a mustached man with a big forehead", Hafez Al-Assad (in power from 1971 to 2000). To be called a 'Jew', like a supreme infamy, by his bellicose Syrian cousins (the Yom Kippur War against Israel, in 1973, was still recent). To see a puppy he would have liked to play with being tortured and then finally killed by some rascals who see nothing in it other than an 'unclean animal', etc ...
This comic highlights the inevitable cultural misunderstandings (making us laugh since, everything happens through the eyes of a kid) that it recalls the theories almost forgotten nowadays, such as pan-Arabism, this political, cultural movement. , and ideological which aimed to reunite and unify the Arab peoples, not in relation to Islam but in relation to a common history (which often gave this school of thought a secular coloring).
In short, the work is so rich that it is impossible to summarize it without distorting it. Only one thing to do: read it! In addition, it is extremely topical at a time when this part of the world is set on fire again. As always, turning to History to try to understand, even in the form of a comic strip, strikes me as a very relevant idea. If in addition it is drawn to us with talent ...
The Arab of the Future - Youth in the Middle East (1978-1984), by Riad Sattouf, Allary Editions, May 2014.
The Fauve d'Or for best album has just been awarded to him at the 2015 Angoulême festival