The Arrival by Shaun Tan

the arrivalThis is an absolutely amazing, wordless, graphic novel. It might really be a picture book for children, I don’t know, but it definitely works for adults too.

the arrival 4It’s about the immigrant experience, as a man leaves his wife and daughter to try and get work in a foreign city. The city is populated by strange creatures, unusual contraptions and a language of symbols that he doesn’t understand. He meets other immigrants, who welcome and help him. And we learn their stories about why they left their homes to make new ones in this city.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful. It’s mostly in sepia tones, with a slightly different palette when he’s showing other immigrants’ back stories.

the arrival 6

the arrival 2I love that it’s wordless. The man can’t communicate with words so we experience the world as he does. It would be very easy to forgo subtlety when working in this way, but Tan’s skill as an artist means this isn’t the case. We can see the man’s confusion through our own confusion of the strange objects in this new world. The section about his original home is short, but Tan conveys that the man is leaving due to some horrible force with shadowy, spiked tendrils weaving their way through the streets.

the arrival 5It’s basically poetry without words. You don’t need to be able to articulate it, you can just feel the meaning.

Definitely check this one out, even if you’re not a fan of graphic novels / picture books. Gah, so beautiful.

the arrival 3the arrival 7

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8 Responses to The Arrival by Shaun Tan

  1. caitlinstern says:

    I saw a few pages of this in a literature class years ago. The bits I remember made quite an impression, so I’m definitely going to try to find it to read! 🙂

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  3. gegallas says:

    This is one of my favorites — thanks for sharing! 🙂 Have you read Shaun Tan’s other work? Thought you might be interested in my online graphic novel “The Poet and the Flea” about the poet-painter William Blake: Best regards, G. E.

    • D says:

      This is the first I’ve read of his but will definitely be looking at his other stuff.
      Great, I’ll check yours out too!

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