I think I agree with a quote in the New Yorker, that this graphic novel feels a little like a bit of an act of revenge by Sattouf at his father for his childhood being dragged to Libya and Syria. His father is conveyed through Sattouf as a child narrator who blindly repeats his father’s arrogant, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and naive rants without comment and with only the occasional critique from his hugely passive wife.
The characterisation of his father sniffing and rubbing his nose when he knows he is in the wrong may seem like a cute quirk, but it comes across to me as a childish peevish action of someone who won’t verbally admit he is wrong.
And if you wanted to learn something about Syria or Libya all you have is an unflattering portrayal of violent and ignorant people. Even their cartoon depictions are unflattering, more so than that of his family.
I think anyone depicting life under a regime is cursed to be compared to Persepolis and Marjane Satrapi’s ability to bring out irony in the bleakest of circumstances. As may come up in my review of A Game for Swallows…