The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir (Paperback)
The Arab of the Future, the #1 French best-seller, tells the unforgettable story of Riad Sattouf's childhood, spent in the shadows of 3 dictators—Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, and his father
In striking, virtuoso graphic style that captures both the immediacy of childhood and the fervor of political idealism, Riad Sattouf recounts his nomadic childhood growing up in rural France, Gaddafi's Libya, and Assad's Syria--but always under the roof of his father, a Syrian Pan-Arabist who drags his family along in his pursuit of grandiose dreams for the Arab nation.
Riad, delicate and wide-eyed, follows in the trail of his mismatched parents; his mother, a bookish French student, is as modest as his father is flamboyant. Venturing first to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab State and then joining the family tribe in Homs, Syria, they hold fast to the vision of the paradise that always lies just around the corner. And hold they do, though food is scarce, children kill dogs for sport, and with locks banned, the Sattoufs come home one day to discover another family occupying their apartment. The ultimate outsider, Riad, with his flowing blond hair, is called the ultimate insult… Jewish. And in no time at all, his father has come up with yet another grand plan, moving from building a new people to building his own great palace.
Brimming with life and dark humor, The Arab of the Future reveals the truth and texture of one eccentric family in an absurd Middle East, and also introduces a master cartoonist in a work destined to stand alongside Maus and Persepolis.
About the Author
Riad Sattouf is a best-selling cartoonist and filmmaker who grew up in Syria and Libya and now lives in Paris. The author of four comics series in France and a former contributor to the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf is now a weekly columnist for l’Obs. He also directed the films The French Kissers and Jacky in the Women’s Kingdom.
Winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize
"One of the most prominent cartoonists in the world right now."
“Exquisitely illustrated, and filled with experiences of misfortune bordering on the farcical, Mr. Sattouf’s book is a disquieting yet essential read.”
—Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times
“The Arab of the Future has become that rare thing in France’s polarized intellectual climate: an object of consensual rapture, hailed as a masterpiece in the leading journals of both the left and the right. . . . it has, in effect, made Sattouf the Arab of the present in France.”
—Adam Shatz, The New Yorker
“As the very young Riad Sattouf navigates life in Libya, France, and Syria, he gets a serious education in the mysterious vectors of power that shape not just the political world, but the intimate sphere of his own family. With charming yet powerful drawings and vivid sensory details, Sattouf delivers a child’s-eye view of the baffling adult world in all its complexity, corruption, and delusion. This is a beautiful, funny, and important graphic memoir.”
—Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home
“The hundred-and-fifty-odd pages of Riad Sattouf’s internationally bestselling graphic memoir . . . move with an irrepressible comic velocity. The book is told Candide-style . . . an indictment of the adult world and its insidious methods of diminishment we all have either faced or been fortunate enough to escape.”
—The New Republic
“Engaging and lovely to look at . . . Sattouf has an eye for grimly funny details . . . and milks the disjunction between how he experienced his political environment at the time and how he understands it now for all it's worth.”
—Douglas Wolk, Los Angeles Times
“Sattouf’s work is laced with astute observations of human beings. His memoirs often dwell on their failings: hypocrisy, cowardice, bullying. Yet there’s humour too – mainly because his humans are so helplessly absurd.”
“The Arab of the Future is already being compared to biographical classics like Maus and Persepolis, and the modern relevance of the countries in which it is set is sure to make this a widely talked about book this year.”
“The Arab of the Future maintains a balance of comedy and commentary and …is carried by excellent drawings. Riad Sattouf’s work takes its place alongside other classic animated retrospective memoirs from the region, Persepolis . . . and Waltz with Bashir.”
—The New York Journal of Books
“Seriously funny and penetratingly honest, Riad Sattouf tells the epic story of his eccentric and troubled family. Written with tenderness, grace, and piercing clarity, The Arab of the Future is one of those books that transcend their form to become a literary masterpiece.”
—Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist
“The Arab of the Future is a beautifully cartooned story that is both modern and timeless. The protagonist is one of the most endearing in comics. An important book, not just as art but as a window into another culture.”
—Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese
“The Arab of the Future confirms Riad Sattouf’s place among the greatest cartoonists of his generation.”
“Engrossing . . . Sattouf writes in a fluid prose, beautifully translated by Sam Taylor.”
—Laila Lalami, The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
“In his comics, Sattouf deftly weaves the political background with the everyday. He tells a personal story but also observes the society and country around him, and his great sense of humor makes reading the book thoroughly enjoyable. It’ll have you laughing to the point of tears.”
“Very funny and very sad . . . the social commentary here is more wistful and melancholy than sharp-edged . . . subtly written and deftly illustrated, with psychological incisiveness and humor.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sattouf’s account of his childhood is a deeply personal recollection of a peripatetic youth that can resonate with audiences across the world. It also paints an incisive picture of the Arab world in the late 1970s and early 1980s that sets the stage for the revolutionary changes that would grip and roil the region decades later.”
“Wide-eyed, yet perceptive, the book documents the wanderings of [Sattouf’s] mismatched parents—his bookish French mother and pan-Arabist father, Abdel-Razak Sattouf . . . often disquieting, but always honest.”
“Despite his father’s determination to integrate his son into Arab society, little Sattouf—with his long blond hair—never fully fits in, and this report reads like the curious pondering of an alien from another world. Caught between his parents, Sattouf makes the best of his situation by becoming a master observer and interpreter, his clean, cartoonish art making a social and personal document of wit and understanding.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review, Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2015)