Af Packs a Punch
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Early on in Nicolas Wild's Kabul Disco, a scene has his character sharing a table with grizzled war correspondents and aid agency veterans en route to Afghanistan. The others are soon swapping stories of atrocities they witnessed in hellholes across the world. They turn to Wild, who confidently says, "No way, war-torn countries aren't my thing." Wild, at that time a 28-year-old, Paris-based graphic artist, was embarking on a two-month sojourn in Kabul to write a comic explaining the Afghan constitution to the largely illiterate population. Eventually, he would spend more than two years in the city, at the end of which war-torn countries would definitely be his thing.
Kabul Disco: How I Did Not Get Kidnapped by the Taliban is the product of his experiences, first published in French. It was translated into English for publication in Kabul's expatriate magazine Afghan Scene. The magazine itself offers a glimpse into a surreal world — tailors advertising skills in customised flak jackets, fortified complexes up for rent, traffic advisories warning of roads where kidnappings are common and Page 3 photos of party scenes.
This is the world Wild stepped into from the comfort of the Parisian suburb of Menilmontant in 2005. At that time, Afghanistan seemed to be on the slow road to recovery. The insurgency in Iraq was in full swing and Afghanistan had slipped below the radar — it was thought that what remained were the dying remnants of the Taliban rather than the beginnings of a new cycle of violence. Wild's quixotic brief was to write comics explaining the workings of the newly drafted Afghan constitution to children. With illiteracy level nearing 85 per cent, comic was considered the best way to reach kids. Kabul Disco is essentially a snapshot of Wild's life there for six months. Visually, he is part of a long French tradition of black-and-white style, stretching from Jacques Tardi to David B and encompassing contemporary talents such as Marjane Satrapi. In the themes he chooses to engage, one can also mention Guy Delisle, a French-speaking writer who has won acclaim for his travelogues set in similar forbidding landscapes like Pyongyang and Yangon.
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