About a year ago Joe Sacco impressed me with Safe area Goražde, a stark report from a Bosnian town during the Yugoslavian war of the 1990's. Sacco showed he has an eye for things the world refuses to see and the skills to draw them, producing comic book journalism of high quality.

His quest for the oppressed has led him on to Israel. Sacco is clearly fascinated by the violent pressure cooker that is Palestine and the never-ending struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. He comes upon a deeply buried case of more than fifty years ago and travels around the Gaza Strip to investigate. During the 1956 Suez Canal crisis Israeli troops are said to have conducted two massacres in Palestinian towns, killing hundreds of civilians. Official records of the time treat the incidents as minor disturbances, footnotes in the greater scope of history, and no investigation has ever been conducted.

Sacco tries to reconstruct the events of those days as objectively as possible, trying to find every eyewitness still alive to tell their story. Crossreferencing all those eyewitness accounts, sifting the truth from stories that often differ slightly from eachother; it is a long time ago, but such events are not easily forgotten. With the help of photo material from archives Sacco brings the gruesome events of those days back to life, all the while being constantly disturbed by the current disturbances in the area. Israelis bulldozing Palestinian houses on a large scale, looking for militants and insurgants, but in effect making many ordinary Palestinians homeless. In this highly stressful climate Sacco and his friend and interpreter Abed are often shouted at by the younger people whose homes they enter. What are they doing digging up dirt from so long ago, while contemporary events are demanding everyone's attention?

Fortunately, Sacco persisted and managed to piece together almost the whole story, including some Isreali accounts that hint at the truth of things. His point is valid enough and gets stated somewhere in the beginning of the book, when an old Palestinian remarks that the hatred that is visible all around was planted into people's hearts long ago. It is relevant to the current situation to understand how it used to be, or at least how it probably went.

5 January 2014

Jonathan Cape, 2009


Ik kan me de oorlog in Joegoslavië begin jaren ’90 wel herinneren. De toedracht was me toen niet duidelijk, maar bepaalde veelgebruikte woorden op televisie zijn goed blijven hangen: Sarajevo, Karadzic, Mladic, etnische zuivering, Srebrenica. Van Goražde had ik nog nooit gehoord.
Uit Joe Sacco’s graphic novel Moslimenclave Goražde blijkt dat dit precies het probleem was waar Goražde mee kampte. De internationale media-aandacht ging voornamelijk uit naar de belegerde hoofdstad Sarajevo, terwijl er amper oog was voor ‘veilige’ enclaves als Srebrenica en Goražde. Hoewel Goražde het gruwelijke lot van Srebrenica bespaard is gebleven, heeft het stadje wel een aantal vreselijke oorlogsjaren gekend. Joe Sacco heeft het staartje van deze periode in Goražde meegemaakt en daar vele mensen gesproken die verschrikkingen achter de rug hadden. Hun verslagen, vermengd met zijn eigen ervaringen, heeft Sacco verwerkt in deze indrukwekkende graphic novel. Zo nu en dan bekroop me hetzelfde gevoel dat ik had tijdens het lezen van Maus. Allebei zijn het heftige boeken; heftig, maar ook onmisbaar.

30 December 2012

Uitgeverij XTRA, 2011
Oorspronkelijke titel Safe area Goražde, the war in eastern Bosnia (1992-1995), 2000
Vertaald door Robert Schuit en Peter Mennen


reading now