Golo Zhao & Bao Jingjing, Au gré du Vent (French 2016) / Up in the Wind (China, 2014)
I know there’s no sense in trying to finish every book started before New Year’s eve (I’ve given up) and I know that there’s no more sense in trying to finish every book post I’ve started drafting in here… but I’m still trying. It feels good to start the year with a clean WordPress slate, and by Dec. 20 I still have the impression that I can meet this goal.
Just for the sake of trying, I want to mention an intriguing graphic novel I read a while ago, a movie tie-in apparently (I’m not clear which one came first because I haven’t seen the movie anyway), and a Chinese manga (a.k.a manhua), a genre I’ve rarely tried.
“Up in the Wind” is the story of two Chinese people traveling to Nepal, the land of happiness. But it’s not a tourist trip in the general sense, because they haven’t chosen the trip nor the destination. Yumeng, a young Chinese woman who works as a journalist in the very competitive and superficial environment of a lifestyle magazine in Beijing (or is it Shanghai?) has been sent to Nepal to write a travel report on why Nepal’s happiness index is so high despite poverty. She had hoped to be assigned to Tuscany and feels short-changed. An ambitious girl and a social climber, she still hopes that this trip and her article will land her a big professional success, but local difficulties of Nepal derail her plans. Instead, she gets a self-awakening of sorts, when she has to face who she is, her fears and her doubts.
Alongside Yumeng is a lanky young man, Wang Can, who is essentially a spoilt, arrogant rich kid, who has to travel to Nepal if he ever wants to come back into his father’s good graces after he jilted his bride-to-be at the altar.
The manhua was quite weird. On the one hand, you have the frustrations of this ambitious young woman who is often humiliated by richer and higher-ups (her boss in the big city says to her: “It’s your job to write as if you’re living it up on 25k a month, when you are just a 2k-earning nobody.” As conventional stories go, she has this coming-of-age experience of discovering deeper meaning beyond money and success, especially at the end of the book when she fails to meet her deadline and loses her job.
On the other hand, you have a conventional romantic comedy storyline where Yumeng falls for Wang Can after much bickering and many disputes. But not for one instant did I believe that those two would make a durable couple, nor did I believe that the change undergone by Wang Can would be more than superficial and short-lived. The ending was quite opened and vague, and added to the uneasiness.
On one hand, it wants to show Nepal as a more spiritual place where people are friendlier and have deeper relationships, but on the other hand we only see clichés about Nepal and the story tells more about Chinese millenials than about Nepalese people.
I liked very much the design and colors by Golo Zhao. The landscapes especially are breathtaking, even if it’s only a backdrop. I wonder which storyline the author Bao Jingjing wanted to push forward and how much of this mixup is due to editing and formatting for the big screen. It was an interesting, if not totally convincing reading experience.