Graphic novel as tapestry of Middle East
Guy Delisle is an unlikely star in the world of comic books. Once again, the Canadian cartoonist has produced a riveting portrait of a far-off city and its people, all while visiting as a self-described "housewife." In "Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City," Delisle is along for the ride as his wife -- who works for Doctors Without Borders -- takes the family to the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He crafts a fascinating account of the cultures and religions that are woven together in this ancient city. His naive curiosity propels him from one comical situation to the next. Of course, life inside this militarized area is no joke. For Palestinians, it's a deluge of Israeli-run checkpoints and bulldozed homes. For the author, the giant wall separating Jew and Arab becomes a visual magnet. He encounters hypocrisy on both sides, but leaves the commentary to the rabbis, aid workers and neighbors.
Later in the book, Delisle chats with a young Palestinian about comic books. The man lives in nearby Nablus and hasn't left in three years. Israel's military presence makes it feel like a prison, he says.
"You could do a comic about that," Delisle tells him.
The young man responds: "Nah, who'd want to read it?"
Delisle has no words for him. But after finishing "Jerusalem," you get the feeling that much of this masterful graphic novel was written with that young man in mind.