JERUSALEM: CHRONICLES FROM THE HOLY CITY by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly), 320 pages, $24.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
Few can pull off the graphic novel travelogue. But Quebec's Guy Delisle is a pro at turning his trips into gorgeous comics of world capitals sizzling with political tension.
Fresh off the acclaim of Pyongyang, he turns to another fractious city in this report on his year-long sojourn in Jerusalem.
It's the true story of his work as a cartoonist while accompanying his wife, who works for Médecins sans Frontières. Thanks to that point of entry, Delisle's perspective isn't limited to that of a tourist, but instead reveals the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts you might come across working for a frontline NGO. Thing is, he does a lot of waiting for things to happen, just like, you know, in real life.
His insights are often clearly based on authentic encounters, as when homeless boys kiss his hand when approaching him, or the moment on Remembrance Day when everything comes to a halt in Jerusalem, at airports and on the street. Delisle doesn't usually declare his feelings about such things, instead letting readers come to their own conclusions about the wonders and weirdness of life in Israel.
At 320 pages, it's an exhaustive memoir, and much of it records days spent drawing checkpoints or synagogues. But Delisle isn't interested in self-editing for the sake of pacing, and thus gives us a more profound portrait of life as an observer in Jerusalem. At times he found it mundane, at others exotic and fascinating. He didn't let himself paint just the pretty colours.
Get this travelogue to learn about Jerusalem's multiple personalities, as frustrating as they may be. You might never look at Israel - or graphic novels - the same way again.
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