Saturday, June 3, 2017
Hostage by Guy Delisle
With this new book released in the U.S. in the spring of this year, French Canadian graphic artist and animator Guy Delisle takes a departure from his more usual graphic novels about his life as the spouse of a Médecins Sans Frontières physician to tell the story of a real innocent abroad, Christophe André, on his first assignment for MSF in Ingushetia, in the North Caucasus in 1997.
Christophe was taken hostage, driven across the border into Chechnya, and outside of Grozny he was held for ransom for three months. He had been in his post for three months when they came for him. He spent the bulk of his captivity chained to a radiator in a small room with a mattress stuffed with straw. He was fed watery soup and allowed bathroom breaks, but otherwise had no opportunity to speak, see the sky, move freely.
Ransom negotiations were slow: when he escaped, finally, the translator assigned to his office in Ingushetia told him other foreigners had been kidnapped in the time he was being held. The 400+ pages of this book are not a struggle; readers spend the time thinking about what they might do in similar circumstances, and interrogate themselves about the scene and their own strengths. André himself passed the more terrible stretches by recalling in great detail the military commanders, battles, and outcomes he had studied when he was younger, including Russian, French, and American battles.
The escape at the end is harrowing, and stomach-dropping. André simply did not know whom to trust. Eventually he made it back to his home in Paris, and six months after that went back to MSF and asked for a new assignment. He worked twenty years for MSF after that experience.
Here is a Public Radio International The World radio interview with the artist Delisle about this new book, Hostage, the kind of story that lingers in one's memory:
You can buy this book here: Tweet