Reviewed by Alan
In the graphic novel “Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City,” Quebecois cartoonist Guy Delisle offers us a graphic (anti-travel) travel book. No, this is not Fodor’s -Delisle is a cartoonist, not a travel writer. And he was not just visiting – he lived in a rather nasty neighborhood in East Jerusalem for a year while his partner worked for Medicins sans Frontieres. Delisle has produced similar books about his time in North Korea, China and Burma. For a year, Delisle navigated daily life in greater Jerusalem – seeing the sights, taking his children to and from school, visiting playgrounds, trying to work, seeing friends and attempting to live as normal a life as possible in one of the least normal places one might find. Delisle’s drawings are simple but effective at providing telling glimpses of the terrain and the people who live and work there – apart, side-by-side and often at odds. He produces a visual journal that provides a series of snapshots and vignettes which gradually creates a larger impression of the humor, despair and absurdity of life in the Holy City. Living in a bad part of town with Palestinian neighbors while your partner toils for an NGO (non-governmental organization) providing medical support for the Palestinian population certainly colors his views. Delisle endeavors to give us an honest assessment of what he sees and how he sees it. As the book begins, he seems to be trying to keep an open mind about the situation in Jerusalem. However – and not surprisingly – as the book goes on, Delisle clearly comes to sympathize more and more with the Palestinians he encounters. This was an illuminating and thought-provoking read about a place that occupies a very central part of modern geopolitics and religious sentiment.