How to tell a story without words? A good storyteller knows he should be as universal as possible, while telling a specific story. Of course each story is unique, but it helps if it contains an element of basic human experience.
With The Arrival Shaun Tan beautifully captured the ancient theme of the traveller. A man leaves his wife and daughter behind and travels to a foreign country. The alienation he feels in this new place – language, customs, surroundings are all unknown to him – make him long for the familiarity of home. With a nicely surreal style Tan makes you see all those strange things through the man’s eyes and through his daughter’s who misses him. A funny creature befriends the man and shows him around. Through this creature he meets other travellers. They tell the man their stories of arrival in this foreign land. It turns out many people used to have their home elsewhere. Feelings of alienation are normal, but together they can help each other make a new home.
The arrival tells a universal story; it is a book you should pick up occasionally, just to see how such a story should be told. And to look at all the pictures of course.
4 January 2013
Originally published 2007