Bye Bye Babylon
Lamia Ziadé; translated by Olivia Snaije
6" x 9" • 300 pages • full-color illustrations throughout
ISBN 9781566568777 • paperback • $24.95 •
"It’s a powerful graphic memoir charting her experiences as a well-to-do preteen living in a 1970s Beirut, Lebanon, increasingly ravaged by civil war. No short review, no matter how accurate, can begin to capture the full emotional impact of Ziade’s simply phrased reminiscences, or the narrative power wielded by her evocative, child-like illustrations...It’s an absurdly simple solution for presenting the absurdity of her reality, one that effectively underscores perhaps the most terrible truth of modern life: ours is a world where everything, including life and death itself, is a commodity..."—ForeWord
"Visually arresting and emotionally devastating, this graphic memoir of war and childhood feels like an art book and explodes like a car bomb…Stunning in both the art and the audacity...Rather than offering a political polemic, Ziadé shows how it felt to find the comforts of consumer culture...give way to violence that then became the everyday reality.”—Kirkus Reviews
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Tragedy and innocence coexist in this delicate reconstruction of the author’s childhood during Lebanon’s civil war
In 1975 I was seven years old, and loved the Bazooka bubble-gums my mother would buy for Walid and me in Spinney’s supermarket… Beirut in the 1970s is a paradise. Wealthy families ride escalators and fill shopping carts with imported food and luxury products from Paris and New York. Lamia Ziadé, seven years old, dreams of banana splits, American candy, flying on Pan Am Airways and visiting the local cinema. Considered by the elite the “Paris, Las Vegas or Monaco of the Middle East,” Beirut was in reality a powder-keg, waiting for a spark. On April 13, 1975 Lamia and her family returned from lunch in the countryside to find a city in flames.
Looking back on the golden days before the war, and its immediate, devastating effects, Bye Bye Babylon positions an elegiac and shocking narrative next to a child’s perspective of the years 1975–79: of consumer icons next to burning buildings, scenes of violence and sparkling new weapons painted in vivid Technicolor—war as pop.
It is both a lament for a home transformed by a destructive madness, and an inventory of the concrete objects of her childhood: the objects, details and fragments of memory which combine to capture the impossible reality of war. Part artist’s sketchbook, part travel notebook and part family album, Bye Bye Babylon is a unique graphic memoir, and an important visual record of a terrible war.
Born in Lebanon, Lamia Ziadé is an internationally acclaimed artist and illustrator. She has worked as a fabric designer for Jean-Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake, had a number of solo exhibitions in Paris, Munich, Los Angeles, and Shanghai, and has published several books for adults and children, including L’utilisation Maximum de la Douceur (written by Vincent Ravalec, Seuil 2001), Rayon Beauté (Le Rouergue, 1998), and Souliax (written by Olivier Douzou, Le Rouergue, 1999). She is a regular contributor to the French magazines Vogue and Jalouse among others. She lives in Paris.
Read more about Bye Bye Babylon, and see excerpts at Warscapes.
“Both like and unlike Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2003), Bye Bye Babylon is equally distinguished.”—Booklist
“…'Bye Bye Babylon' has helped me understand a bit more about how complex the conflict was. …The lasting impression that I have taken from 'Bye Bye Babylon' is of a childhood lost overnight. …very effectively uses words and pictures to illustrate how life was perverted and distorted. …These messages are thoughtfully delivered, with Zaidé’s illustrations complementing her text to give the reader a strong sense of the horrors of life in Beirut between 1975 and 1979. It’s hard to conceive that the war would continue and worsen for another decade.” —Belletrista
“Lamia Ziadé’s readers are fortunate that after 20 years of reflection she has put her thoughts to paper – in words and drawings…the result is a gem in the form of a graphic novel… poetic, deliberately child-like, extremely funny, caustic and very moving all at once…She joyfully depicts the style of the 1970s, and the country’s wild, hallucinatory, descent into violence.” —Banipal (UK)
“The narrative of this book is compulsively compelling. It’s hard to imagine a more intense or frightening experience for a child than to live through these events. Ziadé does a nice job of telling this story in a unique way…short text pieces with deliberately loose and evocative art pieces. This gives the book a bit of a storybook quality to it—which is of course ideal for a story about a child...an interesting first-hand exploration of a fascinating event.”—Comics Bulletin
“…'Bye Bye Babylon' is not a traditional graphic novel …The effect …is an imposed silence, a moment of respect for what was lost in the war…This novel …shows a road of conflict that is long, and that creates its own energies and profits, its own rituals and counter-rituals. Weapons, like cocktail peanuts, can be bought and consumed. War is just another product.” —Egypt Independent
“Lamia Ziadé brings her pop and irreverence to this book …drawings and short, detailed texts recall memories of wartime Beirut…as seen through the eyes of a child … the violence crashing over the city becomes her school.”—The Daily Star
“…It’s a gorgeous and heartbreaking book… This book does for the Civil War what Persepolis did for Iran’s 1979 revolution. Buy it, or request it for your library.” —Randa Jarrar
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