The Debate Over 'The Arab of the Future'
Here are a few quotes about the graphic memoir, “The Arab of the Future,” which details the upbringing of cartoonist Riad Sattouf in Syria and Libya in the 1980s, and which is causing a sensation in France. They're all from Adam Shantz's excellent profile on Sattouf, “Drawing Blood,” in The New Yorker:
- “Sattouf is faithful to what he sees, and he doesn't beautify reality.” -- Subhi Hadidi, a leftist member of the Syrian opposition.
- “Sattouf describes things as they are.” -- Syrian-Lebanese poet Adonis.
- “[The book's appeal in France] rests on an unconscious, or partly conscious, racism. ... Because he's part Arab, everything he says becomes acceptable, including the most atrociously racist things.” -- Yves Gonzalez-Quijano, a French scholar of the Arab world.
- “The problem isn't Sattouf, who has written a funny and sympathetic book. It's the readers who think they've understood a society as complex as Syria because they've read a single comic book.” -- Elias Sanbar, a Palestinian writer and diplomat, who is now Palestine's ambassador to UNESCO.
The above quotes get at what I don't like about certain forms of political correctness in this country. I like the search for truth. If you find the negative in that search, well, welcome to the party, pal. To pretend otherwise isn't just PC; it's PR.
What is the difference between PC and PR? Is it that PC is for the marginalized, PR for the dominant? Either way, they're both anathema to the artist.
I've already ordered the first volume of Sattouf's book, which just went on sale in the U.S.. and will try to refrain from thinking I've understood a society as complex as Syria. But I imagine I'll at least understand it a little better. Won't be hard.
Being faithful to what you see: harder than it sounds.