For those who aren’t familiar with Riad Sattouf, the French-Syrian best-selling cartoonist and filmmaker, you may be familiar with his award-winning film Les Beaux Gosses (The French Kissers). Sattouf, 37, who grew up in Syria and Libya, and currently lives in Paris,has recently been awarded and recognized for his graphic memoir L’Arabe du futur (The Arab of the Future). With this memoir, Sattouf was capable of turning his childhood recollections of bitter moments in Libya and Syria into a satirical and humorous piece appreciated by many of his readers.
It’s strikingly vivid and powerful comic illustrations are what make The Arab of the Future remarkable. This is a belief shared by many of his readers. Without giving too much away, the graphic memoir, uses satire, humor and political rhetoric to take us back to a period (1978-1984) in which Riad Sattouf, a multi-national child grows up in France, the Libya of Muammar Al-Gaddafi and the Syria of Hafez Al-Assad. Under the roof of his father, Abdel-Razak, a Syrian pan-Arabist, the whole family is dragged along in the pursuit of his father’s epic dreams for the Arab nation to become a unified, prosperous region. Abdel-Razak who moves to Paris to complete a Doctorate in History at the Sorbonne, falls in love with a Frenchwoman named Clémentine.
“France is wonderful, people can do whatever they want here. They even pay you to be a student! And they have Radio Monte Carlo…” (an excerpt from The Arab of the Future)
Abdel-Razak successfully defends his doctoral dissertation, and Clémentine, now his wife, gives birth to Riad. At two-years old, Sattouf begins to deliver a multinational child’s-eye perspective of the eccentric adult world, in all its complexity.
The Arab of the Future has received many great reviews and has been praised and recognized by leading journals. The New York Times depicts the memoir to be:
“Exquisitely illustrated, and filled with experiences of misfortune bordering on the farcical, Mr. Sattouf’s book is a disquieting yet essential read”
Originally in French, volume 1 of the memoir has been translated into 15 languages and it is Sattouf’s first work to appear in English.
Many of the readers hope that the next volume of this memoir trilogy will shed some light not just on the political desires of the Sattouf family but also on its personal dynamics.
If you are a fan of satire, humor and political rhetoric from the Middle East then this is the right book for you. You can find “The Arab of the Future” here.