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Notes For A War Story
Page 45 Review by Stephen
"The patriot? I don't even know what that means..."
"It means you do what the fuck you like. But you say you're doing it for your country."
So speaks Felix, a dangerously charismatic leader of a gang of criminal thugs. For him this bleak Balkan war is an opportunity. For Giuliano and his friends, it means aimless wandering, scavenging to survive, and worrying about "losing points" in each others' eyes. Each in their own way is vulnerable. Giuliano, for example, frets about how the other two see him as an outsider: just a little too much privilege, with parents to fall back on if the worst comes to the worse. As it turns out, he's right.
This wasn't the book I was expecting. It's not about bombs, it's not about guns and it's not about politics, really. You don't even see the war. It's about friendships which are strained to competitive breaking point when Stefano, the more aggressive of the three, falls under the thrall of Felix who just loves imparting "life lessons" and who - it's so simple, really - actually gives him something to do. The boy never had a stable home or family, making him susceptible to anyone who could offer him an equivalent. So yes, it's a book about leadership, male role models and a generation lost without either. Pertinent, you might say.
As ever with Gipi, the art is an odd mixture of lush watercolour where the puddles glisten and the rain cascades across the page, and the angular, beak-nosed heads that resemble leering wooden puppets.
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