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The Arrival, Shaun Tan


In this gloriously illustrated story, a traveler leaves his family and immigrates to a new city, where he struggles to learn new languages, new cultures, and meets people very different from his home. In a fantastical, futuristic, yet industrial world, Tan’s main character travels by train and by steamer ship, arriving in an overwhelming city where he uses drawings to indicate that he needs lodging. The languages are written in foreign symbols, though reminiscent of recognizable languages; the alien structures, writings, and settings serve to align the reader with the confusion and disorientation of the traveler. He finds lodging, and to his surprise, it is also inhabited by an alien, dog-like creature who accompanies him on his endeavors to find food and work. The traveler meets and befriends a number of other people in the city, many of whom are themselves refugees, immigrants, or otherwise hoping to start afresh in a new place; each of them has a story to tell.

Told entirely without the use of written English, Tan’s story speaks for itself through the beautifully detailed illustrations. It is easy to follow the actions and different perspectives despite the lack of words; color is used very sparingly, with most pages using muted sepia tones, adding to the industrial look and feel of the book. This is a splendid example of the graphic novel format, and its story will resonate with a wide audience.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 2011/11/25 21:44

    I’ve recently “read” this book. At first I didn’t understand it, as there are many near-random objects that hardly make sense. But when I reread The Arrival the second time, I started to understand what this book is trying to depict. Shuan Tan beautifully shows how a foreigner feels when he or she enters a new land.

    I enjoyed this post and book, and I’m glad to find another who has also read this amazing book.

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