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Saturday, February 25, 2012

"Jerusalem", chronicles of the most absurd conflict

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
(Chroniques de Jérusalem, French original title)- Guy Delisle

"Jérusalem, un canadien errant dans la ville sainte", reads the banner of Guy Delisle's blog created during his stay in Jerusalem. A whole year joining his wife (and with their two little kids), a MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) worker, allowing the author to show a very personal and peculiar view of the conflict and how it affects the daily reality of the region.

As someone who has followed and enjoyed the previous works of Delisle, this structure is unsurprising, something that at first lessens the impact of "Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City". There's a "been there, seen that, did that" feeling. The mixture of quotidianity (he's a househusband with not many things to do aside from drawing and exploring the city/area), trivial situations and an initially naïveté is a bit frustating, considering how politicized and known is the Palestine-Israel conflict. Sure, Delisle doesn't pretend to be another Joe Sacco, but his lack of knowledge in the area is shocking, particularly considering the work of her wife.

But this unpromising start soon develops into something else. Delisle is building, slowly, with patience (a quality that seems much needed to live there), an unexpected adventure comic-book. It is not journalism, or the radiography of a conflict, but a ludicrous take, from an observer with talent to capture the detail on the (terryfing) number of absurd situations every person (well, I guess not really everyone) has to suffer living in Jerusalem.

Every country in this planet is based in fallacies. Nations, being concepts, have to been built upon, and that construction is, historically consolidated by violence (mainly wars, triumphs, conquers and defeats) and fuelled by the articulation of a speech designed to unify the community: a common enemy to fight against, a religion, a system of beliefs, a flag, a mission to be accomplished together, etc. There's no better example than Israel. And that's what Delisle, in a ligthweight, apolitical way, even with a subtle sense of humour, unveils.

The situation of the Occupied Territories, the settlements, the division of the city, the shameful absurdity of the Wall, the arbitrarities in which the Israeli authorities inccur everyday with the Palestine population, the deplorable restrictions of their freedoms and liberties, the ridiculous behaviour of the different communities, in particular the most religious ones ... everything is captured by Delisle pencil, having time (its his longest work to date) also to talk about drawing and how he creates to. By the time you reach the final pages of the book, you realize a complete portrait of the country's reality has been made. From the eyes of a tourist, build upon anechdotes and without allowing himself to provide a political opinion. But the complete, clear picture is there.

"Jersusalem Chronicles" probably lacks the impact of "Pyongyang", "Shenzen", or the "Burma Chronicles", mainly because these three locations are way more unknown that Jerusalem. But this is a refreshing and very recommendable take on the most contradictory place on Earth, and the most absurd conflict. Don't miss it.

SCORE: 7,25/10

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