One year after the publication of Japan (subtitled “Japan as viewed by 17 creators”), Casterman keeps the same formula to propose Corée (or “Korea as viewed by 12 creators”) — using an almost identical design, from the authors mentioned in arc of circle to the illustrated duo “child + animal” as cover. The interior sees some changes, since there is no underlying concept except for the Western author/local author alternance, unlike the previous volume whose stories were organized around a slow North-bound trip along the Archipelago.
No real surprise on the Western side — the authors may be a little less “in the spotlight” than the ones who took part in the Japanese trip, but it is obvious that any feeling of exoticism gives way to their more or less established narrative universe. Bouzard and Mathieu Sapin may well be in Korea, they nonetheless produce their very Bouzard-like nicely surrealist autobiography and Mathieu Sapin-like insane characters with a good amount of absurd, keeping to throwing in a minor dose of astonishment toward the otherness of their surroundings.
On the other hand, the locals come with their share of discovery, since, unlike Japan which featured only one author not yet published in France, four of the six Korean authors were unknown so far — a perfect opportunity to explore interesting styles (Doo-Ho Lee, Hee-Jae Lee) or to appreciate promising voices (Ki-Hyun Byun, Chaemin).
Like its predecessor, this book remains a slightly strange object, an anthology unable to choose its own path event though (or because) it does not really assert its desire to testify or to report. It could be likened to the series from L’Association (… in Egypt, … in Mexico and … in India) — but here travelogues end up mixed with pure fictions, resulting in an ill-matched collection without any clear direction. Which leads to wish for the reverse journey, with France as viewed by the Korean or the Japanese confronted with a selection of French authors trying to express the essence of their country, in order to restore some balance.
In the meantime, and while hybridization and cultural mixing are trendy topics, these two volumes mainly illustrate non-communication, each group remaining quietly on its side of the fence.