[GN] The Arrival – Shaun Tan
March 22, 2010 § 18 Comments
What drives so many to leave everything behind and journey alone to a mysterious country, a place without family or friends, where everything is nameless and the future is unknown?
The Arrival is a silent graphic novel, a wordless book that tells a story using the universal language of illustration. The story of a man as he leaves his wife and child behind in a place, though familiar to him, yet offers him and his family no future. He makes a journey, with so many others, in search of the possibility of a better home, a brighter future.
It’s not an easy thing to do, leaving the family behind in search for something that is quite uncertain. And really, there are no words that could possibly do this illustration any justice, simply because at this junction, when emotions have to be put aside, no words are exchanged, only the shared hope that all this would be worthwhile.
Upon his arrival to this new and strange land; a place where he doesn’t speak the language, and his surroundings appear to him bizarre and crazy, he finds himself constantly thrown off, like having the rug pulled out from right under his feet.
Everything is new, everything is different, and what is worse, he is alone to experience and learn all this.
He misses his family. Constantly. How is it possible not to?
This book reminded me so much of my father. About 6 years ago, he left Malaysia and came to New Zealand alone. Business was not good, he was struggling. And although it was only six years ago, and it doesn’t seem like that long of a time, we didn’t have a computer then. We had no connection to the internet. Our only communication was through the phone, when my dad could afford it, and through letters.
For me, it was like looking at my father’s story. The one he didn’t tell us about, the one that involved feeling lonely and lost. And I could see my father’s face as I saw this image of the man reading a letter from home.
I can see why so many people have read and loved this book. Though silent and wordless, the illustrations spoke to me with the clarity that words would never achieve. The feeling of being lost in a new world, of being amazed at the strange sights, of hearing other stories of other people who have left their homes for a better life; and then slowly learning about this new culture, of making new friends, of learning to laugh again, of finally fitting in.
To me, this is a story that tells us to not despair, to look ahead, that there is hope there yet. A story about the kindness of strangers, this book tells us that even though the tunnel seems endless, there will be light at the end of it.