André Derainne’s new comic is a colourful excursion into the food, culture and architecture of Ho Chi Minh
Comprising of 10 chapters that illustrate a different district of the Vietnamese City, Un orage par jour is the French illustrator’s latest – and most delicious – accomplishment.
- Ayla Angelos
- 27 August 2021
When we last heard from André Derainne, he spilled the tea (and some of the details) on his work-in-progress comic – a book inspired by the streets and scrumptious delicacies found in Ho Chi Minh City. It was only three months into the making, so André admits that it was still early days. “I didn’t have a clear idea of how many pages it would be,” he tells It’s Nice That. “In fact, the work took much longer than expected.” Coupled with a change in artistic direction, he used the various lockdowns and restrictions in France to devote his full attention to the work. It’s now completed, and we’re utterly enamoured by its evolution. Titled Un orage par jour, the visual tome references both food, travel and the weather that accompanied his stay in Ho Chi Minh, “which is linked to the dishes I ate there, often outdoors.”
André has long wanted to tell a story of a large city, with a protagonist wandering the streets and tasting all of the treats it has to offer. “For me,” he goes on to say, “cities are small-scale representations of the world: people of all origins, all ages, all social classes mixed within a territory that is itself diverse, and despite all this diversity, an identity, an atmosphere specific to these cities, emerges.” So what comprises the essence of a city? This is the question posed when deciding to work on his comic, and Vietnam was where he chose to direct his focus, specifically Ho Chi Minh City. After being accepted onto an artistic residency there, André attempted to learn Vietnamese and delved into its history and culture. It wasn’t long until he was infatuated with the country’s “extremely rich” cuisine – “I had no idea how much!” – and he wanted to know more, especially in the sense of its alfresco dining and urban architectural development. And that’s when Un orage par jour was borne.
“The story is very simple,” he says, explaining how it’s divided into 10 chapters, with each illustrating a walk through a different district of Ho Chi Ming City. The character stops at each “point” to taste a dish, before finishing in Beijing during a stopover flight. Each section is devised to represent the diversity of the city and its cuisine, with an intention of allowing the reader to discover its "complexity and immensity” through the urban and rural districts. “But also to show the different communities that coexist through the Chinese or Korean quarter, and the traces of French colonisation which seem to be extremely important.” And while the comic protrudes with colour and details an almost diaristic-like quality, it’s far more than just a typical travel record of a trip to Vietnam; it’s a colourful excursion into the food, culture and architecture.
In this sense, you could regard the book as being more non-fiction than fiction, particularly as the facts littered throughout are based off reality. The protagonist, too, represents André as he wonders with amazement throughout the city, dressed in black as he goes from “square to square”. “I think it almost looks like a kind of insect,” he says. “That’s what I call him in my head!” Elsewhere, André has illustrated a few more characters to represent the real-life people he’d met along the way. To make sure he represented them accurately – plus the location and food – he took plenty of notes to refer back to. This includes the smells, colours, and details of the people, “so that in the end, the scenes told in the book are unnecessarily faithful to reality, right down to the colour of the restaurant customers’ t-shirts.”
He also thanks the internet for allowing him to fact check the streets once he’d returned to France, which is when he started illustrating the dishes that interested him most, like súp cua, bánh cuốn, bún cá lóc and khổ qua xào trứng. André is no expert on the topic, so he asked chef Linh Nguyen – the sous chef at a two-star restaurant LA Réserve – to write several recipes at the end of the publication, allowing the readers to test things out themselves and learn more about Vietnamese cuisine in the process.
Throughout, André has given special attention to lively and bountiful tones of his illustration style, which is a contrast to the previously soft and slow visual language seen before. This transition is an intentional move to better represent the buoyancy of his trip. It’s also a style that “matches the dynamic atmosphere of the city, its weather and its colours,” he says, referring especially to the Chinese district chợ lớn – which is where he ate the soup mì sườn – filled with neon lights and street vendors by night. So as the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and its various travel restrictions, Un orage par jour is a welcome reminder of the days of unrestrained exploration – travelling to unknown territories and injecting ourselves into new and exciting cultures.
André Derainne: Cover of un orage par jour (Copyright © André Derainne, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.