Graphic Novel Review: Factory Summers by Guy Delisle

Factory Summers by Guy Delisle. Translated by Helge Dascher and Rob Aspinall. Drawn & Quarterly, 2021. 9781770464599. 156pp.

At sixteen, Delisle was hired for a summer job at Quebec City’s pulp and paper mill, where his father had been working for thirty years. His first job, as a sixth hand on one of the machines producing newsprint, involved operating a crane that moved massive paper rolls, cleaning the alleyways between machines, and dealing with the large amounts of paper that broke and unspooled from the rolls onto the floor. (He had to push it into a space under the floor with something like a squeegee.) The work was tiring and noisy, and the factory was like a a deafening sauna where the only relief was a soundproof break shack.

Delisle continued this summer job for years as he worked toward a career in animation and eventually comics. Many of the regular workers in the factory were a bit rough around the edges, though enough were odd and entertaining. And Delisle found a kind of joy in doing the difficult, sometimes dangerous tasks he was given, some of which required specific skills useful nowhere else. (It reminded me of the year I spent fixing cars in high school, a year during which I endured jokes, soaked myself repeatedly in dangerous chemicals, and learned to put up with the other mechanics’ senses of humor.)

My favorite graphic novels by Delisle recount his time living in foreign countries: North Korea, China, Myanmar, and Israel. This one fits in well with those in that it gives a sense of what it was like to grow up in Quebec, and it’s even more personal. Loved it.


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