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Jean-Pierre Filiu

at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Diplomacy between the Middle East and the USA in graphic novel form.

Image of Jean-Pierre Filiu

The Stripped Strand of the Edinburgh International Book Festival continues into the final weekend of the festival and features former advisor to the French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Filiu. He has written the text for the third volume of the comic book Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, published by Self Made Hero. The series looks at the complicated political relationship between the United States of America and the Middle East. It is a collaboration with illustrator David B, who provides the eye catching and interesting black and white images. The event is chaired by the writer and critic Stuart Kelly who describes the Best of Enemies as a “clear, accurate, succinct and beautiful book.”

Kelly starts the lively conversation by suggesting that the use of graphics and illustrations can express horror in ways that text cannot. He also highlights that David B’s artwork carries some of the pain that needs to be explicitly shown when presenting the politics between the USA and the Middle East. Jean-Pierre Filiu fully agrees and points out images from the book, in which graphic metaphors are explicitly applied, in order to show the hypocrisy of certain political leaders. The audience has the pleasure of seeing images from Best Of Enemies projected on a screen behind the author. When discussing the creative process between artist and writer, Jean-Pierre Filiu notes that with his words he would – “boil it down to the essential facts and then David would bring these words to life through pictures.” The writer also suggests that words themselves cannot fully express the complicated nature of the politics he is attempting to express – “As a former diplomat, I understand it is hard to describe diplomacy.”

During the audience Q and A the topic of peace and finding solutions to the turmoil in both the USA and Middle is mentioned. Here the former diplomat states – “America has a top down approach to diplomacy, but a bottom up approach would more likely work in the Middle East.” The writer also mentions that “The Middle East is not on the other side of the universe” and the humanity of the people in the region needs to be recognised and this is something he stresses within the three volumes of the Best of Enemies comic books.