A selection of comic books to better understand the Arab World

Since the 1990’s, many comic books have been published and are likely to be displayed in the non fiction section of bookstores and libraries.  There are biographies, travel logs, chronicles and documentaries, told in this very specific language of comic books.

Drawing in sequence with the alternation of texts in balloons (giving direct voice to many different characters) and in captions (offering space to the narrator), provide the story-telling with a greater impact. Many authors have now chosen this genre to vividly tell their own experiences or observations. During the past decade, titles dealing with the Arab World have been released: through them we can understand more of these countries, their culture and their geopolitical issues. In these very interesting works, generally told by a first-person narrator, the point of view is not objective or impartial. There are stories told from the inside by artists who have experienced those times and places.


Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, might be the best-known title on this list, since it has been adapted to movie-screen. Satrapi draws and recounts her childhood in Teheran in the 70’s, when the Islamic Revolution overthrown the Shah. The author’s family, opposed to the Revolution, had to suffer the repression of the regime. Told from the experiences of a child and drawn with a naïve black and white line,  this book is tender, humorous and very illuminating.
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, Pantheon, 2004


In The Photographer, Lefèvre chronicles his travels through the mountains of Afghanistan during the war against communist Russia, when he was commissioned by NGO Doctors without Borders to follow a medical team in mission to settle a hospital in an isolated region. This book is a great homage to the outstanding commitment of Doctors without borders, and a sensible look at civilians in war.
The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders, Lefèvre, First Second, 2009


Joe Sacco spent 3 months in occupied Gaza and Ramallah in the 90’s. He gives voice to the Palestinians, trapped in the muddy streets of refugee camps, recounting torture, massacres and arbitrary imprisonments. The author of Palestine never forgets to put the testimonies he reports under the light of local and international geopolitics. A must-read to understand the Israel Palestine conflict!
palestine cover
Palestine, Joe Sacco, Fantagraphics, 2001


The father of author Riad Sattouf (French mother and Syrian father) seems to incarnate the role of the Arab of the future: highly educated in French universities, he decides to take his wife and 5-years-old child to Kadhafi’s Libya in the 80’s to see the leader’s pan-Arabic project of the leader come true. The author’s sarcastic tone reveals the struggles of a country on its way to development, and their citizens’ dream to take over. With the recent events in Libya in mind and the fall of “the Guide” at the hands of the West, this memoir of an extraordinary childhood leaves the reader with a bitter taste: Occident and the Arab world are not likely to understand each other. Let’s hope Sattouf’s book can help build a bridge between differences.
The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf, Metropolitan Books, 2015

Mala of the Heart, 108 sacred poems

MalaOfThe HeartcHCOMala of the Heart is an inspirational convergence of great saints, prophets, and poets who have walked the earth before us. This beautifully edited book contains 108 poems, as the 108 prayer beads of the mala used by the Buddhists to connect the body with the sacred. Similarly to prayers, poetry written by saints and mystics consoles the heart. “When we read or listen poetry of the spirit, we come to see with a certain clarity the one thing that has always been facing us, yet seems invisible to us”, says the editor in his introduction to the book.


what happens to the scale
when love
Kabir (India)
Who are the poets who have delivered those messages? A very interesting appendix at the end of the book gives the reader historical clues on them: the voices of St. Catherine of Siena (Italy), Rumi (Persia), Meister Eckhart (Germany), Mukta Bai (India) or Uvavnuk (Inuit Nation) are gathered here.
The editor of the book, Ravi Nathwani, will present the book at Moebius Books the 5th of January at 6pm. He will tell us more about the birth of this book, and share his knowledge of the selected poets. Ravi will also read some of the poems and give us clues about his spiritual practice based on those words of wisdom. Mr. Nathwani was born in East Africa and raised in the Vaishnav Hindu tradition. He has become a messenger of Vedic studies through his lectures and workshops. Since 1998, Ravi has been teaching at Tufts University. He also teaches Wisdom Yoga and Buddhist meditation at JFK University in California. Ravi leads satsangs and meditation groups and teaches the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita in Yoga teacher trainings.
This book presentation will be a great opportunity to discover the beautiful poems of wise men and women, as well as Ravi Nathwani’s philosophical message.
I am looking for a poem that says Everything
so I don’t have to write
Tukaram (India)


Mala of the heart, 108 sacred poems: a book presentation by editor Ravi Nathwani

Tuesday 5 of January, 6pm

Moebius Books

Instituto Allende, Ancha de San Antonio 20, San Miguel de Allende, Centro.