Joe Sacco's latest
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 3 08:33:18 MST 2003
Looks Like a Job for "The Fixer"
Joe Sacco's latest work of comix-journalism
Time Magazine, Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
The best journalism contains some art and the best art contains some
journalism. Any nonfiction report on the world around us needs some art, in
the form of narrative or metaphor or linguistics, to bring life to mere
facts. Concurrently any work of art worthy of the name will report
something new (either in content or form) to the audience. Joe Sacco,
intrepid cartoonist, has been snooping around the borderlands between these
disciplines for several years. His first important series, "Palestine,"
(1995) about life in the holy land during the first Intefada, gave us
something radically new: a comic book that was immediately relevant to the
real world. His next project, the graphic novel "Safe Area Gorazde," (2000)
gave vision to otherwise unrecorded atrocities of the Balkans war of the
early nineties. Now at last Sacco has come out with a new hardcover book,
"The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo" (Drawn & Quarterly; 108 pp.; $24.95),
his most refined work of reportorial art yet.
"The Fixer" focuses on a foreign war correspondent necessity the shady
local who takes you to the hot spots, translates, and generally greases the
wheels. Sacco's fixer is Neven, who he meets in a hotel lobby in 1995. At
the time the Serb nationalist siege of the city was slowly lifting but
sniping remained a terrifying constant. Sacco's greeting at the reception
desk was to be shown a map and told, "This is the hotel. This is the front
line. Don't ever walk here." Sacco needs Neven to introduce him to people
with a story to tell. Neven needs Sacco because the foreign press has
mostly abandoned Sarajevo now that the major fighting is over.
Unlike Sacco's previous books, where he illustrates the stories of various
people he interviews, "The Fixer" uses one individual who personifies a
particular place. Neven, a native Sarajevan born to a Muslim mother and
raised by a Serbian father, constitutes the traditional cosmopolitaness of
that once most tolerant city. The mark of the Sarajevan, Neven says, is "a
mixture of so many things: a love of art; a love of other people; and an
amount of sarcasm and irony." Sacco, in counterpoint, accompanies this
mythic passage with a full-page image of a dark, lifeless, abandoned space
between blasted out buildings. Through Neven's personal history Sacco gives
us the inside story of fighting against the Serbs during the siege. This
job fell to loosely associated, legalized gangs headed by popular warlords.
Trained in the Yugoslav army as a sniper, Neven joins a paramilitary unit
made up of "distinguished sportsmen, all-in-all criminals, or a little bit
of both," and commanded by Ismet Bajramovic, AKA Celo, a violent, handsome
ex-convict with intense charisma.
Sacco gives us the history of these morally ambiguous warlords who he
describes as "military pop idols." While defending the city they confiscate
storehouses, evict Muslims from their homes, conscript citizens by gunpoint
and are eventually implicated in massacres and "ethnic cleansing." Neven
adds his own story to these, like the time he shot an enemy through his gun
holster while falling backwards. Or did he? Sacco parallels his increasing
doubts about the authenticity of Neven's tales while getting deeper into
the warlord's atrocities. By the end, "The Fixer" becomes as much about the
haziness and relative importance of the truth as about the history of the
Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org
PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.
More information about the Marxism