Graphic novels always make it easier for a story to tell what it has to. They have the sense of making the reader understand what it wants to without putting in too much effort. Maybe that is why I understand politics best through a comic strip. That works for me on more than one level.
“Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City” by Guy Delisle is one such book. Before reading the book, I was aware to some extent about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but things became clearer, but obviously after the read.
Guy Delisle presents the conflict in a manner that I think a non-fiction account wouldn’t have been able to. This is not a typical travelogue either (though it is his account of travel to Jerusalem). The book is about Delisle’s wife, Nadege who works with the organization Doctors without Borders and she is transferred to Jerusalem for a year with Guy and their two children to help provide medical care in Israel. The book is a collection of the author’s observations of the city on a day-to-day living basis.
The narrative switches from bigger events to the daily living of the author and his family, which works very well with this kind of graphic format. There are no sides that Guy takes in the book. He just presents his observations – the keen eye for details – from Israel’s assault on Gaza to the Arab-Israelis issue. The book surprisingly is not controversial at all. As I said, Guy leaves the judgment and decision-making to the readers. He does not do it for them.
The reader gets to understand and notice just how bizarre Jerusalem is. The city is divided into different quarters – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, each with their own rules and regulations. The military presence cannot be ignored. The check points are now a part of the citizens’ lives. The region is troubled and Guy infuses life and sometimes humour through his drawings and writing which is much needed for a book of this magnitude. A great read for all those who want to know more about this region and to a certain extent about its history.