20 May 2011
Original title: GAZA - Footnotes to a War
By: Joe Sacco
Language: Swedish (English)
Joe Sacco is one of the world's most celebrated cartoonists. He has, almost all by himself, established the genre of comics journalism and in book after book shown us his skills, both as a journalist and cartoonist.
Out of the number of books which Sacco has produced, four have so far been published in Swedish, and out of these, Gaza - fotnoter till ett krig, is without a doubt the best. The story shows how Sacco goes to the so-called Gaza Strip for a number of months, investigating a massacre that occurred in 1956, when Israeli troops killed several hundreds of Palestinian civilians. Although this is probably the largest massacre on Palestinian land, it has remained a footnote in history, something that Sacco wants to investigate and ultimately change.
The story follows Sacco as he searches for information while experiencing what it is like to live in Gaza in the 2000s, with constant attacks by the Israelis, bulldozers that destroy house after house, and so on. This story is interwoven with the stories Sacco retells from the interviews with the survivors of the 1956 massacre. The latter slowly forms into a coherent picture of what actually happened, which is horrendous on a scale that is almost hard to comprehend. Everything is reproduced in Sacco's realistic, meticulous black and white style, which makes the read much more harrowing than if it had done in a more expressive style.
What makes this the best book so far from Sacco, in my humble opinion, is that he adds a third dimension, talking about the truthfulness of the stories he is told, how memory is always subjective and also fades over time, using many statements to try to get as close as possible to what actually happened. The seriousness with which Sacco has undertaken the job of uncovering the truth is also reflected in the appendix at the end of the book, with quotes from some of the printed sources that Sacco has used. Not something you see at the end of most graphic novels.
Sacco didn't just establish the genre of comics journalism, he excels in it, keeping a standard so high that no-one else comes even close. This is one of the best books that you can get hold of, told in the comics format. So find of a copy, in whatever language you prefer, and read it. You won't be disappointed.
PS: For those of you who want more Joe Sacco comics, or haven't tried his books, here's a shorter comic on the immigrant problems of Malta.