By Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie
Sir Richard Burton is most famous for sexing up The 1,001 Arabian Nights. Two centuries later, Craig Thompson has graciously provided some accompanying imagery.
I feel like I have no choice but to hate Thompson’s latest graphic novel, Habibi. I’ll admit that it was beautifully drawn, though some of the panels seem needlessly garnished with alchemy symbols or random Arabic letters. But I’ll let Robyn Creswell’s review for The New York Times handle the fact that Thompson clutters his story—my beef with Thompson is about his staggering Orientalism, which I’ll get to shortly.
Themes of longing and survival permeate Habibi. The protagonists, Zam and Dodola, long for each other, likening this to a yearning for the Divine – Middle Eastern poets have done this for centuries. Zam and Dodola endure horrible events in the name of survival, perhaps tying in with Thompson’s conservationist theme by implying that our disregard for the earth is tantamount to rape and castration of the planet. These themes, however, are often drowned out—no matter how much Thompson underlines them—by the towering gaffes of his misrepresentation. The country of Wanatolia may be fiction, but the cultures it mimics and clumsily muddles together are real.