The Arrival by Shaun Tan is the most beautiful graphic novel that I’ve ever seen. It contains beautiful stunning pictures that speak for themselves which is a good thing because The Arrival contains no words. I breezed through the book in thirty minutes, only to re-open it, and read it again. I can’t get enough of how extraordinary Tan’s images are. I am not in any way an artist, but I would recommend it solely for the artwork. That doesn’t mean the story leaves anything to be desired, however. The combination of story plus images makes this one of my favorite books of the year.
The Arrival is a universal immigrant’s tale, however, it focuses on one man’s journey. Tan uses images to translate the harrowing journey that millions of immigrants have gone through and still do. We follow the man as he says goodbye to his family, and makes the long and lonely voyage to his new home.
When I think of moving to new place I hype it up as different other, and it may or may not be, but the foreign is has the tendency to be exotic. Here it quite literally is. The pain, the confusion of uprooting your life, and the trials and tribulations of setting roots in a foreign land become visible through Tan’s fantasical surrealist setting.
I’ve never immigrated anywhere, but my parents have. They constantly tell me about the struggle of having to adjust to a new country, learn the language, and learn the social etiquette of a new culture. As I mentiond Tan’s story is universal. It’s every Immigrants story. He depicts the struggle of learning to adjust to your new surrounding, while still desperately clinging to the old. It portrays having one foot in the new world, but the rest of your body in the old.
Tan also depicts the darker parts of immigration. The people who don’t want you to be there, and the insecurity of living in a country that isn’t you own, and the naiveté that can sometimes lead to bad situations.
The images have an antique quality to them. They remind me of something you would find in your grandmother’s albums. They are all in sepia or black and white hues. Shaun Tan’s imagination is very close to mine. When I think of my dream cities it’s usually looks something like this:
While I never knew the man’s name I enjoyed watching his journey. His first steps to finding himself in his new life, and building on it for his and his family’s future.
I hope I’ve convinced you to pick this one up. It’s very realistic despite the fantasy feel to it. Highly recommend to EVERYONE graphic novel lovers and not alike.