This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
Friday’s list of graphic novels was limited to those written in Arabic, as it was for a course taught in Arabic. But let’s be honest, some of your favorite graphic novels were written by Arabs in French:
Lettre a la Mere (Letter to Mother), by Mazen Kerbaj. This novel came out in the summer of 2013 from the French publisher L’Apocalypse and is a collection of short stories about disillusionment, alienation, and corruption set in Beirut. Now magazine called it a “Love/hate letter to Beirut.“
Beyrouth, juillet – août 2006 (Beirut, July-August 2006), by Mazen Kerbaj. This collection resists linguistic categorization, as it’s in English, French, and Arabic. It’s a cartoon memoir of the drawings Mazen Kerbaj posted on his blog during the Israeli attack in the summer of 2006. In the words of the Libalel blog, “it provides a striking testimony of daily life mixed with fear, anger, hope and doubt. His drawings reveal an undisputed mastery of the genres alternating between cartoons, poster, slogan or drawings etc.”
L’Arabe du futur (The Arab of the Future), by Riad Sattouf. This best-selling title by the French-Syrian comic artist is forthcoming from Metropolitan Books this May.
Ma Circoncision (My Circumcision), by Riad Sattouf. A review by Olivia Snaije, who strongly recommends the book, calls this a “tragi-comic autobiographical bombshell.” She notes it’s “a collection for teenagers but could very well be for adults. Funny and terrible, it is the grueling tale of an 8-year-old boy who lives in a Syrian village and is faced with his impending circumcision.”
Mourir partir revenir c’est le jeu des hirondelles, (A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return), by Zeina Abirached. This beautifully drawn graphic novel is also for young people – but can be enjoyed by adults — a memoir of being a child during Lebanon’s civil war. It’s also available in translation from Edward Gauvin. Others by Abirached include Mouton, 38 Rue Youssef Semaani, Beyrouth catharsis, and Beyrouth partita.
Bye Bye Babylone (Bye Bye Babylon), by Lamia Ziade, also available in translation by Olivia Snaije. This wonderfully pop-art, gaudily overdrawn illustrated novel of civil war that contasts consumerist “paradise” with the parallel consumerist and consuming civil war.
Les vêpres algériennes (Algerian Vespers), by Nawel Louerrad. Published by Dalimen Éditions. You can find an excerpt of Louerrad’s work, trans. Canan Marasligil, on Words Without Borders.
Bach to Black (Bach to Black), by Nawel Louerrad. Also published by Dalimen Éditions.
Petit Polio (Little Polio) and Mémé d’Armenie (Granny from Armenia),by Farid Boudjellal. According to Warscapes, these are the first three books (Petit Polio comes in
two parts) in a four-part graphic novel series based on Boudjellal’s childhood. “The author is incarnated by Mahmoud Slimani, aka Le Petit Polio, an endearing child character born of ‘a world founded and imagined’ by Boudjellal. … As a baby, Farid contracted poliomyelitis (polio) and his pudding-bowl doppelganger Mahmoud suffers from the same condition. In the first two graphic novels of the collection: Petit Polio (Little Polio) andMémé d’Armenie (Granny from Armenia) the struggle with the scars of Polio, the fight for peer acceptance and the more everyday difficulties of childhood are told through Mahmoud’s innocent ‘eyewitness account’ against the backdrop of the War of Algerian Independence in France.” Published by Soleil. Boudjellal has many more, including, recently, Le cousin harki, Les Slimani, Les folles années de l’intégration, Le Chien à trois pattes, Les Contes du djinn, Hadj moussa, and Les années 1958/1959
Broderies pour un Hold-up (Embroidery for a Hold-up), by Mahmoud Benameur, published by Dalimen Éditions. Benameur won the prize for best graphics at the 2010 Algiers Comic Book Festival (FIBDA). Since 2011, he has continued his work as a comic artist. Some of his work can be found on the European Cultural Foundation website.
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