A leaf out of dystopia

Updated: May 29, 2020, 09:23 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Drawing from the times we're living in, three graphic novelists pick works from the genre that make for a good read right now.

Defined by the Oxford dictionary as “an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic,” dystopia is a term that is here to stay. Since graphic novels offer a window into this genre, three well-known writers share their picks.

Debasmita Dasgupta, recommends


The Arrival by Shaun Tan: Published in 2006, this book by the Australian artist was a Hugo Award nominee. “It is one of the finest pieces of wordless graphic novels that I have come across. The story is about an immigrant fleeing a land populated by monsters to a new space where he could bring his wife and daughter. It’s dystopian as well as uplifting at the same time,” Dasgupta says.

Vishwajyoti Ghosh, recommends


Building Stories by Chris Ware: After a decade of working on it, this title that follows the lives of inhabitants of a three-storey brownstone apartment building in Chicago came out in an unconventional format — in a box comprising 14 printed elements including cloth-bound books, leaflets, broadsheets and an unfoldable board. “So, Ware plays with architecture. His works are relevant today because a lot of them explore loneliness and are about talking to oneself,” Ghosh says, also suggesting the Acme Novelty Library series by Ware.

Priya Kuriyan, recommends


The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan: This picture book was adapted into an Academy Award-winning short film. “The protagonist discovers a strange creature resembling a combination of a crab, octopus and an industrial machine while picking bottle tops by the beach. He discovers that the creature is lost and ends up at a government agency, which is in turn, responsible for keeping things under wraps. The art is really beautiful and it has a hopeful ending,” Kuriyan says.

Chris Ware’s Building Stories box set
Chris Ware's Building Stories box set

Cicada by Shaun Tan: Touching upon the theme of disillusionment of workers in large corporations, the book revolves around the insect that has been working hard in the office for 17 years but doesn’t get noticed by anyone. “It ends with a surprise. I remember Tan speaking about this book in an interview, saying that he was inspired by a Chinese factory that had installed safety nets to ensure workers wouldn’t commit suicide, and also the fact that cicadas remain underground for 17 years, and die as soon as they mate,” Kuriyan shares.

V for Vendetta written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd: One of the most popular novels around, this one is a commentary on fascism and anarchism.

The Incal written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Jean Giraud: The best-selling French novel series is set around an intergalactic struggle.

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