Review: Hostage

In the middle of the night in 1997, Doctors Without Borders administrator Christophe André was kidnapped by armed men and taken away to an unknown destination in the Caucasus region. For three months, André was kept handcuffed in solitary confinement, with little to survive on and almost no contact with the outside world.

Artist and writer Guy Delisle recounts André’s experience in Hostage the new graphic novel from Drawn & Quarterly that’s one of the most fascinating graphic novels I’ve read this year. Delisle recounts André’s experience in an almost 500 page book that goes over the details no matter how mundaine it may seem. And I think that’s what’s most fascinating about it all. This isn’t a story where André is being taken out and his life threatened, that experience comes from his head. Instead, the graphic novel is actually almost ordinary in a way. Day in and day out André is handcuffed in his setting given soup and bread to eat and recounting the days. How he spent the three months and what was occuring on his side is the interesting part.

This isn’t a story about negotiations and failed transfers. Instead, this story focuses on what André imagines is going on, or just straight up ponders. Why was a photo taken? Why did he have to provide a phone numbers? Telling the story only from André’s perspective provides us the reader a confinement that reflects what André experienced. For pages and pages the book devotes itself to the soup André eats and how his wrist deals with the handcuffs. Because, that’s what André experienced. We see how André stayed alert during his time, how he counted the days, and his general thoughts. In reality though, we only see and experience what André did.

Delisle conveys the psychological effects of solitary confinement, compelling us to ask ourselves some difficult questions regarding the repercussions of negotiating with kidnappers and what it really means to be free. For those in the nonprofit sector or want to see the power of graphic journalist, Hostage is a fascinating read.

But, what struck me most, and Delisle enhances with his art is how far from an action movie it all is. Seriously, I want to go pack and see how much is devoted to discussing soup. But, the way it’s all presented is in a way so that we the reader who are unfamiliar with André’s experience don’t know what’s happening next. So, through the mundane tension increases as the story goes on.

Hostage is one of the most fascinating releases this year in both its story, attention to detail, and how it’s laid out. For a slice of real life through graphic journalism, this is a must get.

Story: Guy Delisle Art: Guy Delisle
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

4 comments

  • This is sad but very interesting!

    • It’s not super sad which is weird. The saddest part is where he thinks about his family and what he’s missing. The way it’s presented is interesting since it’s just from the hostage’s perspective and it presents his captors as dipshits in such a way it becomes slightly comical. I think what surprised me was how mundane it was with much of the experience repeated over and over. I hadn’t heard of the incident until this, so really happy it got turned into a graphic novel.

  • I felt that it did get repetitive at some point, but the whole idea was to portray the helplessness of the hostage. It does catch pace nearing the end, and I thought it would have been better if sometime had been given to balance this factor out.
    Overall, the time and patience put to it just makes me appreciate it more.

    • Yeah, it’s really interesting in that repetitiveness is part of the point of it all. It helps convey what he went through. And yes on the time, that’s a hell of a lot to dedicate to a project.