On ‘The Arab of the Future’
“I didn’t want to be the guy with an Arabic name, who immediately makes a book on his Arabic origin.”
Franco-Syrian Riad Sattouf here discusses his emotionally honest graphic memoir, praised as ”a classic within its genre.” Sparked by the civil war in Syria, it is told from a child’s perspective, humorously balancing between two cultures. Read more …
“I like to show that when people think they have a destiny, sometimes it’s just stupid things that decide life.” At the age of two, Sattouf made a drawing of a man, which his grandmother praised to the sky, thinking it was the French President Pompidou. This sparked his belief in his drawing abilities, and Sattouf is amused by the fact that it was “a vision of admiration” that decided his whole life, and that he might as well have become a chef if his grandmother had praised his cooking.
Puzzled by the strange fact that all writers of horror, fantasy or science fiction seemed to never have Arabic names, Sattouf decided that he wouldn’t be restricted in such a way: “I wanted to be a guy with an Arabic name who makes science fiction for example.” However, when the civil war broke out in Syria, he wanted to convey his troubles with the French administration when trying to help his Syrian family and to do so, he had to tell the story from the beginning – and so he began ‘The Arab of the Future’.
“I wanted to not judge the characters, and to show them with their inner paradox.” The story is from a child’s point of view, and Sattouf found that many of his childhood memories were of sound, taste and smell, which was important for him to convey: “I wanted to make it emotionally understandable by anybody.” The main character is his father, who was from a poor background in Syria but succeeded in becoming a doctor in France, and the graphic memoir deals with Sattouf’s childhood fascination of him – for better or worse. As a result, people have very different perceptions of his father when reading the book: “It’s exactly what I wanted – each person sees in the character a part of maybe himself.”
Riad Sattouf (b. 1978) is a French cartoonist, comics artist and film director of Franco-Syrian origin. Sattouf became widely known for the praised on-going graphic memoir ‘The Arab of the Future – A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984’ and ‘The Arab of the Future 2 – A Childhood in the Middle East, 1984-1985’ (L’Arabe du future) (2014-15), first of which won the 2015 Fauve d’Or Prize for best graphic novel. Sattouf has also written and directed the award-winning film ‘Les Beaux Gosses’ (The French Kissers) (2009). Sattouf worked for the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo from 2004-2014. He lives and works in France.
Riad Sattouf was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in October 2017.
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Produced by: Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017
Supported by Nordea-fonden