Les montagnes russe

When I first heard about The Photographer I was intrigued by the idea. Take the pictures from Didier Lefevre, a photographer who traveled with a Medecins Sans Frontier (MSF) mission during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1986 and turn it into a narrative with illustrations to fill in where there are no photographs. For the most part it worked. There were time when it seemed forced and annoying like watching a family member talk you through a slide show from one of their trips. He talks you through the pictures just as much as through his trip. By the end you get it. You are a part of his journey and struggles. The trip they take is arduous and you can see the obvious mental toll.

Warning this graphic novel is not for the squeamish. If the thought of pictures of an operation or a guy whose lower jaw has been blown off by a mortar are too much to bear then perhaps this is not a read for you.

You also learn quite a bit about Afghanistan and how the country works — although the situation is likely different today. It is impressive to see the different regions they cross, the lives of everyday people off in the mountains and the effects of war on civilians. You see their attitudes and values in the questions that they ask travelers — for example it is expected that a man Didier’s age be married and have children. By the end you are amazed by the friendliness of Afghanis, who help out the MSF mission as much as they can despite their impoverishment and the war. You are also amazed that Lefevre makes it out in one piece. It is a neat idea and worth the read.