After I read Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle, I wanted to read more of his graphic fiction. This past weekend I read Burma Chronicles (translated by Helge Dascher), which tells the story of Delisle’s time in Myanmar with his wife Nadège, who works for Médecins Sans Frontières, and their infant son Louis.
I did not find Burma Chronicles as amusing as Pyongyang. For one, the subject matter in the North Korea graphic novel was already well known to me and even though I had not yet visited the North Korean capital I was still rolling around in laughter. Another reason that Burma Chronicles was not as funny was that it centred on Delisle’s uneventful life in Myanmar while his doctor wife was out in the field living a life of adventure. I found Burma Chronicles in many instances a boring read. What made Pyongyang such a riot was reading Delisle’s comic asides as well as his insetted comics-within-a-comic as he tries in vain to deal with North Korean bureaucracy. There is a sizable chunk of red tape to deal with in Myanmar, but one can cut through this red tape with blunt kiddie scissors. The red tape in North Korea needs a blade sharp enough to cut through diamonds.
Burma Chronicles was funny in Delisle’s account of how the country’s right-hand drive vehicles had to change, overnight, to driving on the right side of the road. The illustrations of right-hand right-lane driving were hilarious. In Myanmar’s humid conditions, Delisle’s illustrations portray himself as sweating away twice his body weight in perspiration each day. Truly a destination where air conditioning is a must, everywhere there is a generator and an outlet.