The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival

This is a beautiful book, both artistically and emotionally. It follows the classic story of an immigrant arriving in a strange country and making his way the best he can. Along the way he meets other immigrants who all tell their own story of the flight from war, persecution and slavery.

The wonder of this book is that it is completely wordless. The lack of speech or narration immediately opens us up to the terror and confusion of being a stranger in a strange land echoing the protagonist’s experience. This new destination is full of unusual food, architecture, animals and machinery to such an extent that it might be on another planet.

The art is superb, looking entirely hand drawn in grey and brown pencils. From little narrative panels to huge double page spreads this seems to be visual archaeology with the constant feeling you are looking into the past. Everything has a period quality to it and you can see many famous influences from Dore etchings to newspaper photographs.

This is a brave and accomplished piece that although it feels over too quickly, rewards you for going back and peering deeper into the pictures. Double Thumbs Up!

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