I am unsure if it is more precise to call Shaun Tan the illustrator or the author – because the remarkable book has no words. Yet Shaun Tan tells an elaborate, cohesive, and poignant story.
It is the story of man leaving his home, his wife and daughter – presumably for a better life. Their current home is a bleak place with an ominous and pervasive danger. The man feels sorrow, and guilt for leaving – but they will never escape if he does not go first and forge the way. It is a desperate and courageous endeavor.
Yes, it is that explicit – without words.
I am not given to hyperbole – but I think this is a masterpiece.
You might infer from the cover, that the book is magical realism, or even fantasy, but that is not the purpose of the fantastic creature you see. I shouldn’t really speak for the author, but I am confident that is not the intent. The creature, like everything in the new land is strange and fantastic – almost magical. The buildings, the machines, the foods, the language, all strange and intimidating, but also in an indistinct way promising.
Shaun Tan captures in pictures, what it must feel like for every pilgrim who has left their native land in search of something better.
The traveler encounters many people – some helpful, some indifferent. He also meets other immigrants who help him assimilate and share their own stories – some who escaped worse conditions than his own.
It is truly remarkable how much Tan conveys with just pictures. I highly recommend this marvelous graphic novel.