Habibi, a strange, beautiful graphic novel


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I found Thompson had an awful lot of unexamined oriental stereotypes in there, particularly of the odalisque variety, with a lot of lingering frames on Dodola’s prostituted nude body. It was such a missed opportunity as the book was pretty good at exploring other issues such as environmental destruction, inequality, corporate colonialism, and modernization. And the visual aspects of it were quite masterful.


You’re not the first Boinger to like Habibi:http://boingboing.net/2011/09/21/habibi-graphic-novel-is-blends.html

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[quote=“jetfx, post:2, topic:53896”]…
with a lot of lingering frames on Dodola’s prostituted nude body.[/quote]

Graphic novels filled with static images tend to do that, unless they’re of the electronic motion comic variety.

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As always, even a few years later, I’m glad someone has gotten around to reading this. Frankly, I thought it was a genius work and one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in years. Definitely a bit strange, but worth it.

I came to say the same… and Edward Said approves of this comment.


Like those old cartoons by Marvel?

What I mean is that there was so many panels with the character naked and sexualized, it made me wonder if Thompson was being voyeuristic. Character nudity is fine, even sexualized nudity, but that the amount and its context in Habibi was undermining the book’s themes about the brutality that was heaped on Dodola by the society she lived in. The book had a problem where it often crossed the line into becoming what it sought to critique.

Yes to this, and to your first comment (so good to see it first! I love BB commenters). I tried to read Habibi, but couldn’t get past the Orientalism and the voyeuristic sexism. The latter is also a problem in Thompson’s previous big book (which is also great otherwise), Blankets.


The former is a problem in Carnet de Voyage, a non fiction travelogue he did after Blankets. To be fair to Habibi, it is really good in places, but like Blankets it suffers because Thompson spent too much time in his own head, rather than talk to others, something that would have really helped get rid of the orientalism.

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I looked through it for a while in the bookstore - an admittedly superficial interaction - and I almost immediately ran into a rape scene I could not get past.

With some books, some days, I can deal with that and get past it. (At least one of the Sandman stories comes to mind.) Other days, with other books, I can’t, the nerves are too raw, and this felt like one of those cases. Maybe it’s that sense of a voyeuristic tone to it that others are commenting on.

I decided I’d have to give this one a miss, despite the obvious beauty of the artwork.

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I haven’t read this, and want to, because it bothers me to have an instinct about a book and not have a chance to know whether my instinct was correct. There’s something about descriptions of this book that just seem to give me a bad vibe about it. I’ve encountered enough works (Comics, movies, films, you name it) written by western authors that just make me cringe that I’m always a little wary. Of course, some of it is actually really good, but the bad stuff is just… well… bad.

As someone who has always had an interest in Arabic calligraphy, I definitely want to judge that for myself. It’s on my list, I guess. My giant, too-big list… *Sigh*.


And the “Arabic” calligraphy is in a Persian “shekasteh” style - seldom if in fact never used to write Arabic. Astonishingly beautiful, and the model for later Urdu styles in the subcontinent.

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Interesting to see this on here. It is near the top of my to-read list. This post may have bumped it up to “on deck.”

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say never, because there’s a certain level of “psuedo-shekasteh” that I’ve seen in various places in the Middle East. Still, you’re right, it’s not commonly used to write Arabic. It’s a pity, because I’ve always really liked Kufic scripts and styles. There’s something very simple and elegant about it, and I don’t see it highlighted as often.


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