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Sublime captivating, changes the perspective one has of the promised land. Funny and somber at the same time. One feels for the people who experience injustice from the ones who have power...seems history repeats and repeats and repeats ...which is deeply described in this book...after all a picture is a thousand words
Guy Delisle travels to Jerusalem with his partner and their two kids for a year. His partner is an administrator for "Doctors Without Borders" and Delisle spends the year working on his comics, looking after the kids, and exploring/trying to understand the city of Jerusalem and its peoples.
If you've read Delisle's work before you'll know he goes to hard-to-reach places and reports on his time there (North Korea, China, Burma) and that the resulting travelogues are always entertaining and enlightening - just like this latest book.
The book isn't a polemic nor is it meant to explain the region or the history, it's really just a memoir/travelogue of his time there. So there is equal parts of his time describing his everyday duties looking after the kids and going to parties, making friends, as much as there is encountering and observing violence from bombings in Gaza, to the numerous checkpoints and outright chaos of this area.
The reader gets to see how bizarre Jerusalem is. The city is divided into Christian quarters, Jewish quarters, and Muslim quarters, where literally one side of the street a woman can wear what she likes and on the other she must be covered head to foot. The constant military presence and day to day reminders of violence - everyone carries a gun, not just soldiers. The shrillness of the piercing calls to prayer echo throughout the city whether you are religious or not. The ridiculously high number of checkpoints everywhere, the constant traffic jams...
As an atheist myself, it's hard to believe that this troubled region is because of one group believing one thing over another leading to literally millennia of conflict. As such, it's incredibly shocking how people will be so petty over everything. One contested house becomes demolished, another goes up - years pass, the house is demolished/taken over, another goes up. And on and on. And the bizarre behaviour of Orthodox Jews who are just flat out racist and violent toward anybody who isn't an Orthodox Jew themselves, is just terrifying.
Delisle doesn't take sides on whether he believes one side is right over another, he's an atheist himself and does his best to present all sides of the argument. Through his fresh eyes the reader sees the area as if they were visiting it themselves. It's a fascinating look at a troubled region, told memorably and filled with excellent artwork throughout all by Delisle, who has once again written/drawn a wonderful book on a strange part of our world with characteristic good humour and intelligence.
I'm a huge Guy Delisle fan and own all of his books. I enjoyed this one but honestly it's not my favorite of his. I have the English version copies and this book felt a bit disjointed.. the subject matter jumps around a bit and it doesn't flow as well as his other books, I feel. Having said that, it's still a fascinating and unique look at travel and worth reading.
Like other reviewers, I'm also a huge fan of Delisle's other works and am very grateful that he still has a couple other collections out there for me to enjoy. This book is markedly different from his other travel books and I knew when reading it that when I was finished I'd find plenty of angry reviews online. Sure enough, all sorts of users here are complaining about the author's jaded perspective and his taking sides and not telling the complete story. What these reviewers fail to recognize is the amazing achievement that this book represents. Despite all the overreacting in these comments, and the hyperbole, no intelligent and logical person could argue that Delisle taking sides, or not telling the whole story. That's not the point of the book. The book is an accurate account of a Westerner's year spent living in Jerusalem. It is not intended, nor could it ever be a comprehensive historical account. Is Maus an accurate and balanced history? Would that book be so powerful and captivating if it was? Instead we see a smart, talented, educated white guy who is neither Jewish nor Arabic making an effort to understand the COMPLETE AND UTTER MESS THAT IS MODERN JERUSALEM. What is the honest response for someone like that? Yeah, he gets frustrated, yeah he sides with the underdog sometimes, yeah is guilty of cultural misunderstandings and some faux pas, and do you know why? Because he's human. The book is very deliberately and consciously subjective. If you want a historical and unbiased look at modern Jerusalem--good luck. It isn't out there, because everyone will bring their baggage to the table. And anyway, if you want history and detailed social analysis, my guess is that you're a fool for complaining that you're not getting that in an autobiographical comic.
For those who aren't interested in all that political crap, a few comments on the art and storytelling: Delisle's craft here is top notch. Some of the panels had me taking pics with my phone and sending them to friends. And it's not because they are remarkable in obvious and ambitious ways, they're just so poignant and subtle in their characterization of a particular gesture or mood or moment. As for the storytelling, this book feels more like the North Korean book than the Burma book for me. I don't know what it was about Burma, but there was a tenderness and lightness to that book, that is understandably lacking here. Perhaps that's because the Burmese culture is so foreign to Delisle that it's easier to make a cartoon out of the plights and strife of the people. Whereas Jerusalem is, for the whole world, the pressure cooker. Everyone has something invested--especially the "First World" bourgeois. So, just be prepared that there's an edge here and a frustration that is absent in his other work. Again though, this is highly understandable. I can't imagine being as even-keeled as he is after living in Jerusalem for a year. As is, he behaves admirably.
My final note is that I couldn't help but wonder if he has an agreement with his partner that she makes only brief and distant appearances in his book. Over and over I found myself wanting to know her more and read her dialogue and thoughts and get her perspective. Nadege(sp) is deliberately absent though and I wonder why.
Overall, there are just so very few treats like this out there that it seems a shame for everyone to bitch and moan so much. We've got a handful of artists out there producing full-length graphic novels of this quality and depth. Let's count our blessings that Delisle is doing what he does, because it's obviously a lot of hard work. Way more work than whining and throwing mud in the comments section on Amazon.com