Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Book Review: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle

Title: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Author: Guy Delisle
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224096690
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

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.

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Book Review: Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Title: Jerusalem: The Biography
Author: Simon Sebag Montefiore
Publisher: Weidenfeld And Nicholson, Orion Books, Hachette Book Group
ISBN: 978-0297866923
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 696
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Jerusalem: The Biography is one of the great reads of the year for me and you should not miss out on reading this one. I have always loved reading anything by Simon Sebag Montefiore. He writes with honesty and passion that is hard to miss. Whether it is about Stalin as a boy and adolescent to Monsters and Heroes, Montefiore does a remarkable job of it.

Jerusalem is a true masterpiece – a biography of a city and yet so much more. It is not easy to write about a city – and also considering that the city is so old and ravaged by the brutalities of time. The thing about the book is that the reader feels as though he is stepping back in time and experiencing the history of Jerusalem first hand.
Jerusalem the book has been written in a very colourful manner – full of anecdotes, how the city came to be what it is today, the rulers, the ones who squandered and looted its riches, the ones who hold it in high regard – its Kings and its Prophets. Montefiore does not leave any stone unturned.

Having said that, there were times I would tend to disagree with the author and yet could not put the book down. There is not much in terms of guidance or analysis by the writer, and yet the book shines. What got me started was the role Jerusalem plays in the apocalyptic vision of fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, and how that has been brought to light in this book. The other aspect that got me going was the deep-rooted connection between Christians and Muslims is made so evident and clear throughout the book and the way it is done is marvellous.

Sparkling and profound, the book is written keeping in mind the most terrible things that have happened behind her walls and also the richness of its land. The book does not take sides. It is an unbiased book and at the same time lays the facts as they are which should be the case while writing about a city. My favourite chapter in the book is, “Sunset of the Byzantines” which truly captures the essence of the book – its timeline and charisma in drawing historical references.

To review a book of Jerusalem’s stature would definitely require a research paper. It is that intense and deep. What I can say is that this is not one of your airport reads. It requires the time and attention that a book of this kind deserves. It however makes you turn the page and wonder at the scale and scope of Jerusalem’s place in history.

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