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Safe Area Gorazde


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The first UK publication of Joe Sacco's classic, groundbreaking work of comics journalism with a foreword by Christopher Hitchens.

Promotional Information

The first UK publication of Joe Sacco's classic, groundbreaking work of comics journalism with a foreword by Christopher Hitchens.

About the Author

Joe Sacco was born in Malta. He won an American Book Award for Palestine. He is also the author of Notes from a Defeatist and The Fixer.


In 1995, comics artist and journalist Sacco (Palestine) rode in a supply convoy into the U.N.-designated "safe area" of Gorazde, a small Bosnian Muslim town deep within Serb territory and under military siege by Orthodox Christian Serb nationalists. Sacco spent the next four months among the 57,000 residents of this imperiled enclave. His new work of comics reportage brings exceptional historical context to the tragic individual stories produced by the dissolution of Yugoslavia. An extraordinary work of both journalism and comics nonfiction, it attempts to make sense of a conflict that many in the West find too confusing or too gruesome to follow. Sacco strikes up friendships with Gorazdens, interviews dozens of refugees and retells, in their words and his drawings, the horrific events of the three-and-a-half-year war that led to the town's isolation and near destruction. Sacco befriends Edin, a Muslim school teacher who becomes his guide and translator, who tells Sacco his own family's story of war suffering. The book captures both the minor difficulties of life under siege (e.g., the swelling and discoloring of hands from washing clothes in freezing spring water) to ever more harrowing accounts of Serb nationalist atrocities (among them, rousing sleeping villagers and telling them, "You won't need shoes, you're going to be killed"). Sacco's compulsively detailed, realistic drawings provide tremendous emotional information beyond his powerful text; coupled with the personal stories, the book is almost overwhelming. Although Sacco's depictions of Serb-inflicted degradations and atrocities are uncompromising and at times excruciating, the graphics are neither gratuitous nor sensational. Asked why his Serb neighbors would burn down his house, Edin can only reply, "I don't know, I would like to ask them." Some questions may never be answered, but this book is essential reading for anyone still asking. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Sacco has produced a work that improbably manages to combine rare insight into what the war in Bosnia felt like on the ground with a mature and nuanced political and historical understanding of the conflict... Of the myriad books that have appeared about Bosnia, few have told the truth more bravely than Sacco. He is an immense talent, from whom we will hear a great deal more. -- David Rieff * New York Times Book Review *
Harrowing and bleakly humorous, Sacco's account of life during the Balkan conflict is a timeless portrait of ordinary people caught in desperate circumstances. It's also a work of genius in an unlikely genre: journalism in comic book form. * Utne Reader *
Like Art Spiegelman's Maus, Sacco's book juxtaposes the pop style of comics with human tragedy, making the brutality of war all the more jarring. * Time *
Can comics do hard-hitting journalism? That's the question asked - and answered - by this wonderful piece of long-form reporting * World of Cruising *

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