Monday, December 26, 2011


I finally finished Craig Thompson's Habibi and I'm basically left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, especially considering Thompson is a non-Muslim, the work should be viewed as an intricately crafted graphic novel which affectionately and beautifully weaves together islamicate elements into a multi-layered anachronistic narrative. The basic story deals with the life of two slaves, a boy and a girl, who meet as children and move in and out of one another's lives. This main story is then embroidered and echoed by a diverse collection of elements including Quranic and Biblical texts, meditations on Arabic calligraphy, Sufi poetry, alchemical and astrological concepts, Middle Eastern pagan myths, Chinese numerology, and even modern physics. On the other hand, the work is also full of Orientalist cliches and one-dimensional characters (misogynist men in turbans, black eunuchs, half-naked harem girls, flatulent palace officials and horny sultans). Moreover, I don't want to give away any spoilers but I really didn't find the ending very satisfying. Basically the storytelling was stylistically rich and impressive but the characters lacked depth and humanity.

The Hooded Utilitarian: Can the Subaltern Draw?: The Spectre of Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi
Majjal: Self-Conscious Orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi
The Hooded Utilitarian: A Conversation about Habibi’s Orientalism with Craig Thompson
CBR: Craig Thompson discusses "Habibi"
Wired: Craig Thompson’s Habibi: Gorgeous, a Bit Overwhelming
The Guardian: Habibi by Craig Thompson – review
Islam and Science Fiction: Islam and Sci-Fi Interview of Craig Thompson

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