Alone in a Room

An artist’s arresting vision of a life in captivity, and of how power shapes our world and our selves

Guy Delisle, who grew up in middle class Quebec City, has come to be known for sharply observed graphic-novel travelogues from very uncomfortable places (Pyongyang, Shenzhen, Rangoon, Jerusalem). A few years ago, when his wife left her job with Doctors Without Borders, the international non-governmental organization that led to so much of his foreign adventuring, Delisle no doubt faced an identity crisis. What to write about? In his latest book he embraces the problem: Hostage, originally published in French last year, swaps the exotic locales of his earlier work for the confines of captivity, telling the true story of a French aid worker who was kidnapped in 1997 and spent months as a prisoner of mysterious jailers in Chechnya.

One senses Delisle posing for himself the ultimate challenge—of jettisoning all his strengths as a graphic novelist and wondering if he will make it, a daring high-wire act...