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Friday, November 15, 2013

Joe Sacco takes you into …

… a world that many of us read about in our newspaper stories or see bits of it on newscasts.

Having written about Guy Delisle in a previous post, I thought I'd go back a little further in time and have a column on Joe Sacco (mentioned in Delisle's book, Jerusalem).

Born October 2, 1960 (that's 20 years after my birth), Sacco is considered a luminary and is best known for his comics journalism.

His strips have been put together in books and you should certainly get Palestine (1996) and Footnotes from Gaza (2009) since they are both available at The Last Word.

As it says on the Internet, "… these comic strips are investigations into two little-known and long-forgotten massacres in 1956 in the southern Gaza Strip that left at least 500 Palestinians dead. It is a chilling look back at an unrecorded past and an exploration of how that past haunts and shapes the present - including the beginning of mass home demolitions in 2003 in Rafah."

So let's start with "Palestine", which was the first Sacco book that I read. The illustrations are amazing and you are carried right into Palestine. 

The violence is everywhere and you feel it much more with the cold print in your hand, rather than the 5-minute video on TV (between two ads that tell you that you'd be beautiful if you were fair) or a newspaper report that carries this item amongst serious news stories, like the PM having gone to Hajj (on our money!) or the Governor (generally a friend/brother of the PM) opening a Mithai Ki Dookaan the belongs to his wife's nephew.

You get to feel the pain, understand the dogged perseverance of the families, and those around each victim.

Edward Said was right when he said this about Palestine — "A political and aesthetic work of extraordinary originality, quite unlike any other in the long, often turgid and hopelessly twisted debates that have occupied Palestinians, Israelis, and their respective supporters. With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Socco."

Hooked by Sacco's first book, I got  "Footnotes from Gaza", next. Wow. Absolutely astounding. 
His images were thrilling, the details were brilliant, crowds were captured superbly - making you feel you were part of that lot.

Scenes after devastations were drawn so brilliantly … but never did you get lost only in the images. The text was always there to take you much deeper, through small pieces that were thrown about … to large texts that led you through the war.


So, naturally, I went right ahead and got
The Fixer — A Story from Sarajevo. 

Away from the Middle East, this book took me through the mind of a man discussing things about his past - (was all of it true or not?) - to Joe Sacco, who appears as the lead, the one who is doing most of the talking, in all his comics and novels.

Take a look at a street scene. Look at the faces. Look in the background and see the other drawings of people. It must take hours of work to get a drawing like this done. And Sacco does this all the time!

And details? Look at the rape victim lying in the bottom left. Just a hint of it because your eyes are focused on the soldier's back. Then you look at it … Wow!!!

I hope T2F gets this book for sale, too. Many would adore it.


Notes from a Defeatist was an earlier book by Sacco, I think, but I received it much later when Sabeen Mahmud brought it for me from her UK trip. My recommendation is that if you are new to Joe Sacco you read the first three books mentioned above before you buy this work of his. It takes him away from the wars and on to other interesting subjects. 


But do that only if you love his art, as much as I do.

(The above book is for Mature Readers, only!)

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Blogger Quizman said...

I'm a huge fan of Sacco even though I do not agree with his views, as presented in his works, all the time. He has also done a comic on a underdeveloped village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Unfortunately, the online format is terrible, but if you want to take a shot at it, please read it here.

Sacco has recently released a grpahic novel, in the truest sense of the word, about the First World War. You can listen to his interview here. He is interviewed alongside Adam Hochschild who wrote a superb non-fiction book in the war.

I also very highly recommend Hochschild's 'King Leopold's Ghost', a history of the Belgian colonization of the Congo. A very tragic and not so well known story about the killing of more than 10 million Africans. [It shows the explorer Stanley in an extremely poor light.]

On a related note, you might also want to check out Amar Bari Naxalbari a graphic novel about the Naxalite movement in India. It was published online last week and takes a dig at the leftist intellectuals in Delhi in a very refreshing fashion.

17 November, 2013 01:52


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