|benicio127 (benicio127) wrote in scans_daily,|
@ 2009-03-17 19:44:00
|Entry tags:||creator: joe sacco|
Safe Area Gorazde
Before I start getting entirely drunk on Mojitos, I thought I'd share with you one of my favourite graphic novels.
Safe Area Gorazde was written and illustrated by journalist Joe Sacco after he spent four months embedded in eastern Bosnia between 94-95. Years back it was on our list of journalism related books to read in one of my uni classes.
Picking it up, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. My two loves -- comics AND journalism -- in ONE? I think I had a nerdgasm. It was truly like something I had never seen before -- comics non-fiction (Well, then again, I'd read Maus the year before and even though it IS comics non-fiction, the people are mice/cats/frogs/pigs). I don't think I'd understood up until that point a story could be told by a journalist in this way.
Anyways, Safe Area Gorazde won an Eisner award in 2001. It's lengthy (230 pages!!!) but well worth it.
proteus_lives, wherever you are, being a fellow journo, I'm sure you'll appreciate this :-)
The scans are a bit brutal, must apologize for that. But I'll add the script to each one just in case. Anyways, this book is sort of sectioned off into short stories that make up the whole. Sacco's main source/translator (whom he appears to befriend as well) is a fellow by the name of Edin. This particular part is about the Drina cigarettes, named after the river. When these people are cut off from so much they find solace in these smokes.
Sacco says here... "I started smoking in Gorazde. It was one evening, Edin and I were relaxing, laughing it up with his pals. That is he was laughing it up and not in English."
Edin: "I am sorry. He is saying -- "
Sacco: "Don't mind me, I said. You've been translating all day. Go ahead, have your laugh. In YOUR language. But half an hour later I was fidgety, restless, going off my nut. It was a revelation. I had no idea."
What I love so much about this book is Sacco is almost self-deprecating in his depiction of himself. He draws himself as pretty much a caricature, while the rest of the people are much more fully defined. While he's there, he's still a journalist: the people are telling the story, not him so much.
Sacco: "Those Drinas I started on, gotta say, they were nasty work. Most Bosnians much preferred Marlboros or Lucky Strikes, but convoys were bringing in Drinas and no one was complaining. In its own way, the Drina was special. It had been manufactured in Sarajevo throughout the war. It was the national smoke.
"The Drina cigarette is named for the famous river that runs along the border with Serbia and also through the Bosnian towns of Visegrad, Gorazde and Foca. Visegrad and Foca had been ethnically cleansed in 1992 and were now in Serb hands ... Gorazde was full of refugees from those two towns and I asked Edin to translate some of their stories for me ...
"It wore him out, visiting refugees, seeing how they lived. He'd had his own problems, he said, and the whole war thusfar he'd avoided theirs..."
Edin: "I only knew where they came from, from here, from there."
Sacco: "This woman didn't want to tell us what happened to her husband in Visegrad..
"Reluctantly, this woman let us in from the rain to describe what she'd seen there, but only to a point."
Woman: "I haven't told you everything. I've seen people with their eyes cut out."
Sacco: "When this woman told us about her experience in Foca, she started shaking so hard she had to sit down against the wall.
"At the beginning of the war, bodies of Muslims massacred in Foca floated down the Drina river and through Gorazde. Now the Gorazde pocket was the only remaining Bosnian government territory on the Drina ...
"Soldiers defending Gorazde were paid in Drinas, 30 packs a month while I was there (getting paid at all was a recent development).
"School teachers had just started earning Drinas, too. On pay day they'd get their wages in a plastic bag and smoke some up in the staff room."
Sacco: "They were also lighting up in the nurses' lounge at the hospital.
"They had stories for Edin to translate there, too. The head nurse of surgery had been the only medically trained person tending to thousands of Muslims retreating from Visegrad in 1992."
Head nurse: "In those days I didn't sleep, I didn't eat anything. I always had bloody hands."
Sacco: "She'd had no supplies, no gauze or bandages and during the operations she improvised, the only pain killer she had to offer was 'rakija' -- brandy. And there was no tobacco, she said. She'd had to smoke nettles and grape leaves. Now she had Drinas."
Head nurse: "Thank God for these cigarettes."
"In Sarajevo, many urban people droned on about the 'primitivism' of the eastern Bosnian refugees filling their proudly cosmopolitan city.
"They smoked Drinas there, too, and some local hipsters told me they weren't so concerned about the fate of Gorazde and its 'country' people.
"Meanwhile Edin had put two and two together."
Edin: "Gorazde needs Sarajevo. But Sarajevo doesn't need Gorazde."
Sacco: "I used to joke that if his gov't traded away Gorazde in a peace deal, Bosnia would have no territory left on the Drina and would have to change the name of its cigarette."
It's not an easy GN to get through. The rapes, murders, etc., talked about all really happened so that can be tough. But it's not entirely sombre, he does meet people who add some levity to the novel, which lets you as the reader breathe and be ready for the next moment.
I would definitely suggest checking your local library/bookstore/comic book shop for this baby.
And now I must end this post coz I'm a cheap drunk and this is gonna start to get incoherent soon...
Yay St. Patty's!