Review: Habibi by Craig Thompson
Reviewed by Liz Grzyb
Habibi is an incredibly detailed graphic novel, telling the story of a young girl and a young boy who grow up in a world of power, lust and punishment. The story, reminiscent of Scheherezade’s Thousand and One Nights, takes us from a seemingly exotic past to a horrifyingly familiar present.
The book is a huge tome, hardcover and over six hundred pages. This makes it a difficult book to read comfortably in bed, but the story is compelling and the pages fly past quickly. Meandering its way through the Qur’an, various Bible stories and the entwining stories of Dodola and Zam as they grow up, the story spans decades.
Habibi is a beautifully made book, with gorgeous, intricately decorated pages written mostly in English, with Arabic influences and references. The designs reminded me of the spectacular tiled decorations found in many Arab countries, and the occasional Arabic word, rather than pulling the reader out of the world, simply drew further in. I especially enjoyed little accents such as when the characters slept, the sounds issuing from them aren’t the expected “Zzzz…” but the symbol for the Arabic letter zay.
Although aesthetically inviting, this is by no means a book for children. The stories told are horrific and painful, with no guarantee of a happy ending. There is death, rape, torture and mutilation littered about on these beautifully drawn pages, along with uncomfortably old-fashioned (we hope) ideas about women and power.
This is a highly recommended read, one which will provoke thought about the nature of love and lust, but certainly won’t be for everyone’s taste.