Friday, July 18, 2014

On the Coffee Table: Jerusalem

Title: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Author and Artist: Guy Delisle
via Wikipedia
I've been reading quite a lot of Guy Delisle's work over the past year or so.  Previous reviews can be found here, here and here.  Delisle is a Quebecois comic artist, best known for his travel narratives.  He and his family spent a year in Jerusalem when his partner, an administrator with Doctors without Borders - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) en Français, was assigned to help coordinate the organization's mission in Gaza.  Just as with their assignment to Burma, Guy is left to look after the kids and otherwise keep himself occupied.

I was surprised by Delisle's relative ignorance of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict going into his adventure but he learned a lot quickly.  He travels well - unafraid to explore new places and strike up conversations with strangers.  In addition to his sightseeing expeditions, he shares the more mundane chronicles that make up daily life: buying a car, exploring grocery stores (a favorite topic in all his books) finding a decent playground for the children and, of course, waiting in traffic to get through checkpoints.  Not surprisingly, the history and tension of the region provide ample material, enough that one year doesn't feel like enough by the end.

I don't know if it's possible to write about Jerusalem without betraying bias.  Delisle's sympathy definitely lies with the Palestinians.  During their stay, there were attacks between Israel and Gaza quite a lot like what's happening in the region right now.  Given the conflict, his partner's work and the fact they lived in a Palestinian neighborhood, most of the people he talks to also side with the Palestinians.  Interestingly, he reveals that Israeli journalists are a lot more critical of the government and the settlements than the Western press ever are.

Overall, Jerusalem is an excellent book.  I think I preferred Burma Chronicles simply for my own ignorance of the country.  I learned more.  But that book's strengths hold for Jerusalem as well.

10 comments:

  1. Sounds like a pretty good read.

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    1. It's nicely done. He's a very thoughtful traveler.

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  2. This sounds like an interesting book. I like reading books that help me to learn something new- especially about areas I may think I know about already (or ones I don't know about at all). :) Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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    1. I would imagine Jerusalem is the sort of place one could explore over a lifetime and never fully grasp its entirety.

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  3. I admire you so much for enlightening yourself on topics like this!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie. I am an explorer at heart.

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  4. Based on your previous recommendations, I will definitely have to check this one out. It's on the list. You're right, though, it's really hard to keep bias out of something as charged as the Israel/Palestine conflicts.

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    1. I hope you will, PVP. I'd be interested to know your thoughts.

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  5. I always admire a good travel story--especially as an outsider looking into a new culture. Thanks for sharing. All his goods sound fascinating!

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    1. I think you'd enjoy them. This one and the Burma book are my favorites.

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