First of all, this piece of music (Erik Satie - Gnossienne 4
) should definitely be the soundtrack of The Arrival
This is an amazing book, although it has no words. The narrative is slowly building from the wonderful drawings of Shaun Tan and from the imagination and sensibility of each reader. I could not believe that I was experiencing such a complex display of feelings just by looking at some images: I was elated, then I was sad, then I was happy, then I was elated some more.
As I hadn't previously read anything about The Arrival
, I thought that this was some sort of science-fiction graphic novel (silly me!). And maybe it was better that way, because I had to put my mind to work to understand what was going on.
The protagonist leaves his wife and daughter behind and travels to a distant land. He might as well be going to a different planet, because everything there is so strange and far from the normality he's used to. You must see with your own eyes the world imagined by Shaun Tan, you must! I was like in a trance, scanning the whole picture for the tiniest details. The white dot that looks like a moon is in fact the hot air balloon which brings the protagonist into the foreign land.
The people there appear to each have a pet, which are peculiar animals, and soon the emigrant will find a pet of his own (it felt so heartwarming, like connecting to the character on paper - strange!). This presence of animals throughout the drawings reminded me of Philip Pullman's dæmons, a very interesting concept from The Golden Compass
We follow the protagonist as he struggles to find a lodging and a job, his encounter with different people (some are emigrants like himself), his acquaintance with the foreign language, the strange landscape, the peculiar fruits and animals. It is an old story dressed in new, wonderful clothes.
I would recommend this to everybody, young and old, even if they are not fans of the graphic novel genre.