Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"I got news about your coordination request for Gaza..."
"No way... damn it..."
"How come? What was their excuse?"
"They said , 'The guy who draws comics? Forget it.'"
"Maybe they got me mixed up with Joe Sacco?"
Ha ha, very funny! In fact, as ever, there's a lot to smile wryly at in Guy Delisle's latest travelogue, this time to the Holy Land. Once again he's playing house husband looking after their two kids as his wife's latest year placement with Médecins Sans Frontières takes the family to Jerusalem, where almost instantly his romanticised preconceptions of the place are utterly dashed and so his usual explorations and excavations of the absurdities of everyday life for the locals can begin in earnest.
One of the many great things about Guy's work, having been to one of the places he's written about (see BURMA CHRONICLES), is that he does completely capture exactly what life is like, down to its frequently confused minutiae, for those who have to live there, and this time is no exception as he shows the cramped and convoluted living arrangements that currently passes for Palestinian society, compressed and literally incarcerated in Gaza and the West Bank as they are by the Israelis. Guy being Guy though, he does try, and admirably manages it, to show the story from both sides without particularly taking either.
Though with that said, when he goes on a tour with a group of Israeli settlers (at the request of the Palestinian tour guide whose tour he'd been on a week previously, again to be fair and to see things from the other perspective) he simply reproduces the settler tour guide's own words verbatim and lets the man damn himself. And when he's not finding out about local political intrigue or getting into trouble with the police for picking yet another inappropriate sketching spot, he's hunting out little oases of calm like the zoo or playgrounds to keep the pesky children entertained and give himself a much needed breather.
Jerusalem is probably his finest work yet, possibly because there's just so much packed into one year compared to anywhere else he's been and Jerusalem is such a fascinating place with all its contradictions and contrasts, but also artistically too, as whilst he adopts his usual laconic style there's subtle additions such as extra background detailing or occasional splashes of colour onto his duotone, single-colour-per-panel palette which add a certain little something.
This would actually be an ideal work for anyone who is interested in finding about the day to day politics of the city and its inhabitants, and the history of the city itself, but isn't ever going to have the time or perhaps the inclination to visit for themselves. It's certainly one of the most confusing places you could ever go by the sounds of it, in every respect, but Guy almost always manages to find someone who can talk some sense about any given situation...
"It's always surprising who you meet at these expat evenings. There are basically three categories: journalists, aid workers and diplomats. I meet a Scotsman who works for the Mideast Quartet. Since 2007 Tony Blair has been its official envoy. So here's a guy who's high up on the political and diplomatic ladder. This is my one chance to get some firsthand information.
"What your work like on a daily basis?... Are there optimistic moments once in a while, or do things look pretty bad most of the time?"
"Things look pretty bad most of the time."
"Ah... and how's Tony?""