Review Blog

Jul 25 2018

Cicada by Shaun Tan

cover image

Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780734418630
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Themes: Cicadas, Employment, Workplace, Bullying, Difference. Unappreciated, Cicada works in a bleak office in a very tall building. He has worked there for seventeen years without a break. He never makes mistakes, yet his co workers taunt and bully him because he is different. His request for a promotion is turned down, because he is not human. He is not allowed in the staff rest rooms. He stays late to finish his work, yet no one thanks him. When he retires he is told to clean his desk. He has no home, no money and no place to be. He climbs to the top of the building, desolate and ready to say goodbye. But here something wonderful happens and Cicada is able to show all humans that he is made of better stuff and does not have to spend his life in the office building, but can fly off to greener pastures.
This scintillating story, full of hope and promise that will appeal to all those who read it. It is multi-layered, at once ruminating on the drudgery of modern work, of bullying in the workplace, of prejudice against those who look different, with hints about homelessness and hopelessness but also of looking forward and of optimism, as Cicada breaks out, paralleling the fact that cicadas can live underground for up to seventeen years before emerging.
Tan's rich oil paintings reflect the muted colours of the dreary work space, with Cicada's bright green just poking above his partition.
Hints of Escher and Edward Hopper amongst others, can be spotted within the pages, while the poem quoted on the publications page adds another layer of meaning and interest to the story.
"Calm and serene
the sound of a cicada permeates the rock"
and Tan's clipped words reflect a minimalism which is deafening in what it leaves out, each small stanza ending with "Tok Tok Tok"!
Each offering from Shaun Tan is breathtaking in its originality.
Fran Knight

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