The Arab of the Future series
Original title: L’Arabe du futur
6- VOLUME GRAPHIC NOVEL SERIES – 180 pp. each except vol. 4 (280 pp.) – full color – format 170 x 240 mm – published between 2014 and 2021/22
In the same vein as Maus by Art Spiegelman and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, The Arab of the Future is an autobiographical and political graphic novel. Raised by a paranoid Syrian father who dreamed of being a dictator, it is with devastating humor and great sensitivity that Riad Sattouf talks about his childhood and the story of his family in the Libya of Mouammar Kadhafi and the Syria of Hafez el Assad. The most ambitious and most accomplished work by Riad Sattouf, The Arab of the Future is long-awaited by the press and the public.
The Arab of the Future tells the story of Riad Sattouf’s childhood in the Middle East. The first volume (2014) covers the period from 1978 to 1984: from birth to the age of six, little Riad is shuttled between Libya, Brittany and Syria. The second volume (2015) tells the story of his first year of school in Syria (1984-1985). The third volume (2016) sees him between the ages of six and nine, the time he becomes aware of the society he is growing up in (1985-1987). The fourth volume is significantly longer (288 pp.), and from what has been revealed (an overthrow of their father’s power) it appears to be the most dramatic yet.
An international publishing phenomenon, the six published volumes of The Arab of the Future have already sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide. Translated into 22 languages, the albums have been awarded multiple prizes, including the Grand prix RTL for graphic novels in 2014, the Fauve d’or (Best Album Prize) at the 2015 international festival of graphic novels in Angoulême and the Los Angeles Times Graphic Novel Prize in 2016.
Volume 1 (1978-1984):
A childhood in Gaddafi’s Libya and Hafez al-Assad’s Syria.
Born of a Syrian father and a Breton mother, Riad Sattouf initially grows up in Tripoli, Libya, where his father has been appointed as a teacher. Coming from a poor background, passionately interested in politics, and obsessed with pan-Arabism, Abdel-Razak Sattouf raises his son Riad in the cult of the great Arab dictators, symbols of modernity and viril power.
In 1984, the family moves to Syria and joins the Sattouf family cradle, a small village near Homs. While his cousins give him a hard time (it doesn’t help that he is blond), the young Riad discovers the harshness of traditional farmer life. His father has only one idea in mind: his son Riad will go to school in Syria to become an educated and modern Arab, an Arab of the future.
Volume 2 (1984-1985):
In this second volume, which covers his first year of school in Syria (1984-1985), he learns to read Arabic, gets to know his father’s side of the family, and does his best to make his father proud by becoming a real little Syrian boy… despite his blond hair and his two weeks’ vacation in France with his mom.
Rural life and the harsh school in Ter Maaleh; shopping on the black market in Homs; dinners at the home of his father’s megalomaniac cousin, a general with close ties to the regime; parched strolls through the ancient city of Palmyra: this second volume introduces us to the Sattouf family’s surreal lifestyle in the land of the dictator Hafez Al-Assad.
Volume 3 (1985-1987):
After having followed her husband to Libya and then to Syria, Riad’s mother can’t take any more of village life in Ter Maaleh. She wants to go back to France. Riad sees his father torn between his wife’s aspirations and the weight of family traditions…
This third volume sees him between the ages of six and nine, the time he becomes aware of the society he is growing up in. Can you celebrate Christmas in Ter Maaleh? Were there video clubs in Homs? How do children of eight fast for Ramadan? Was Conan the Barbarian circumcised? Were Breton villagers kinder to their animals than their Syrian counterparts? How far will Riad go to please his father? And how far will his father go to become an important man in the Syria of Hafez Al-Assad?
Volume 4 (1987-1992):
Aged nine at the beginning of this series, little Riad becomes a teenager. A teenager which is all the more complicated as he is torn between his two cultures – French and Syrian – and his parents no longer get along. His father has gone off to Saudi Arabia for work, and turns more and more towards religion… His mother returned to Brittany with their children and can no longer stand the religious turn her husband has taken. Then the whole family has to return to Syria…
Volume 5 (2020) covers the period from 1992 to 1994.
Volume 6 (November 2022) covers the years 1994-2011. This is the last volume in the series.
They reveal the easy charm also displayed in Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis” volumes, setting up a central, and often amusing, tension between a pictured child protagonist and that same person’s adult, retrospective narration. The reader easily shuttles back and forth between naïve and knowing perspectives, the two combined in the space of a frame. — Hillary Chute, The New York Times
Somehow, the narrative is both very funny and very sad, though the fact that this book even exists shows that a boy’s artistic gifts were finally permitted to flourish. […] Subtly written and deftly illustrated, with psychological incisiveness and humor. —Kirkus *Starred Review*
Despite his father’s determination to integrate his son into Arab society, little Sattouf—with his long blonde hair—never fully fits in, and this report reads like the curious pondering of an alien from another world. Caught between his parents, Sattouf makes the best of his situation by becoming a master observer and interpreter, his clean, cartoonish art making a social and personal document of wit and understanding. —Publishers Weekly *Starred Review*
This stunning memoir, reminiscent of a male Persepolis, was an award-winning bestseller when published in France. Sattouf gives a powerfully detailed child’s-eye view of the cultural conflict of our times. —Publishers Weekly
Not since Persepolis has a comic book seemed so important, or been so acclaimed… It has an authenticity with which no expert or talking head could ever hope to compete. – Observer
Excellent… An authentic, emotionally honest memoir and a useful background reading for present events. – Guardian
This a darker book than its predecessor, though it’s still drily funny, Sattouf never failing to make the most of the aching gap between his father’s fantasies and reality. — Guardian
Like its predecessor, this installment is deceptively simple in tone and style….Sattouf’s ability to convey his father’s character with just a few lines never ceases to amaze….Under Sattouf’s pen, this state of affairs becomes an ingeniously apt microcosm of the larger world he grew up in. — NPR
Engrossing. – New York Times
The main point for me is to tell my story,” Sattouf says. “That of an Arabic father on the far right of the political spectrum and of a son who loves him.— The New YorkerThis is the second volume of Sattouf’s subversive graphic memoir, and like the first, it proves ‘irresistible,’ according to our critic Jennifer Senior. — The New York TimesThis is a masterpiece that deserves the widest readership. The Arab Of The Future reminds us that, in talented hands, graphic novels are capable of carrying the weightiest themes, making us think, and touching our hearts while also keeping us hugely entertained. Riad Sattouf is one of the great creators of our time.— Alain De BottonI tore through two volumes of “The Arab of the Future,” by Riad Sattouf — it’s the most enjoyable graphic novel I’ve read in a while. — Zadie Smith in The New York Times
One of the greatest cartoonists of his generation. – Le Monde
It’ll have you laughing to the point of tears. – Haaretz
A convincing combination of wit and depth. – Frankfurter Allgemeine
Brilliant, sharp and surprising. – Repubblica
First I devoured it. Then I started reading and looking at it slowly. Because The Arab of the Future is beautifully written and overflowing with details –De Correspondent
Exactly the way a child experiences the world and just the way memory works. Through this child’s eyes the social and political situation in Syria and Libya are sketched, but not judged. It offers a new insight into the origin of a problem we all know about since the Arab Spring – De Correspondent
Sattouf tells his sometimes bewildering story in a very concise manner and does not give any judgements. He shows what is happening, lets his history speak for itself, and it is up to the reader to form his or her opinion. With this book Sattouf has created his own Persepolis, without question (****) – De Standaard
[L’Arabe du futur is] his most personal and certainly his most successful work to date. This work, which the reader devours, recounts his childhood spent between France, Libya and Syria, following his parents’ encounter at the Sorbonne University cafeteria at the very beginning of the 1970s. His mother is originally from Brittany and went to study in Paris. His father is Syrian, born in a small village near Homs, the epicenter of the Syrian revolte since 2011. —Les Inrocks
This family chronicle […] intensely blends smells, colors and flavors. More than a collection of memories, [it is] a sincere testimony on integration, exchange and tolerance. —Le Parisien
Not only does the story have historical and sociological qualities, it is also worth it for its narrative quality. […] L’Arabe du futur confirms its author’s place in the contemporary comic strips genre, among the other major names of his generation (Sfar, Trondheim, Blain, Blutch, Guibert… ). —Le Monde Magazine
This album, like all the others by Sattouf, provokes laughter and fear, distress and tenderness – L’Obs
There is a Riad Sattouf mystery. He never disappoints. – AFP
It is with undisguised impatience and always the same pleasure that we rediscover young Riad, just turned seven years old – Causette
The Arab of the Future: all set for another success – La Nouvelle République
Moving, hilarious, unmissable – Grazia
In just two volumes, The Arab of the Future has become a worldwide publishing phenomenon. And the third volume of Riad Sattouf’s autobiographical opus, that has just come out (two are still to appear), should follow the same path – Télérama
Translated into 17 languages, The Arab of the Future is a publishing phenomenon that doesn’t overwhelm the reader, who feels Riad Sattouf personally takes them by the hand to explore his childhood – Spirou
Sattouf has become the master of French comics – Les Inrockuptibles
It pierced my heart, it’s a masterpiece. —Télématin
The author fully shows his ability to mix humor and tenderness and, without seeming to, to capture the movements of History. —Lire
4th volume and undoubtedly the best. […] What Riad Sattouf manages to construct little by little is truly exceptional. —L’Express
- Awarded the Fauve d’Or Prize for Best Album of the Year at the Angoulême International Comics Festival + the RTL Prize for Best Comic Strip Book of the Year + the LA Times Book Prize for Graphic Novel/Comics!!
- Full English translation available in vols. 1-4
- Discover a selection of the raving reviews here!