< < <
Date Index
> > >
Joe Sacco's "Palestine"
by Louis Proyect
24 May 2002 23:07 UTC
< < <
Thread Index
> > >
I am working my way through this comic book based on Joe Sacco's 
encounters with various Palestinian individuals and families during 
the first intafada. To call it a comic book hardly does it justice, 
although in a technical sense that's what it is. Sacco, who I've 
never heard of before this work, is using the comic book as a medium 
to express some very intense ideas and feelings that perhaps can 
never be captured by word alone. He is clearly influenced by Harvey 
Pekar, who wrote a series of comic books in the 1980s about his life 
as a low-paid hospital orderly in Cleveland. He wrote the stories 
that a number of different artists illustrated, including R. Crumb 
whose 1960s comic books defined the counter-culture for millions of 
young people, including myself.

Sacco is more closely related to Pekar, since his work has a strong 
social and political dimension as opposed to Crumb's nihilism. But 
where Pekar's subject matter is his own foibles and the grit of 
lower-class Cleveland life, Sacco chooses to write about global hot 
spots in a manner typical of a John Reed.

He first gained critical acclaim through "Safe Area Goradze", a comic 
book about the Bosnian catastrophe. Understandably, the NY Times and 
other mainstream voices were unstinting in their praise since the 
consensus was against Serbian nationalism, a view that Sacco shared 

His latest work has been ignored by the same book reviewers who made 
Goradze a success--for obvious reasons. I stumbled across "Palestine" 
at Labyrinth, a scholarly bookstore near Columbia. It has an 
introduction by Edward Said, who writes:

"But what finally makes Sacco so unusual a portrayer of life in the 
Occupied Palestinian Territories is that his true concern is finally 
history's victims. Recall that most of the comics we read almost 
routinely conclude with someone's victory, the triumph of good over 
evil, or the routing of the unjust by the just, or even the marriage 
of two young lovers. Superman's villains get thrown out and we hear 
of and see them no more. Tarzan foils the plans of evil white men and 
they are shipped out of Africa in disgrace. Sacco's Palestine is not 
at all like that. The people he lives among are history's losers, 
banished to the fringes where they seem so despondently to loiter, 
without much hope or organization, except for their sheer 
indomitability, their mostly unspoken will to go on, and their 
willingness to cling to their story, to retell it, and to resist 
designs to sweep them away altogether. Astutely, Sacco seems to 
distrust militancy, particularly of the collective sort that bursts 
out in slogans or verbal flag-waving. Neither does he try to provide 
solutions of the kind that have made such a mockery of the Oslo peace 
process. But his comics about Palestine furnish his readers with a 
long enough sojourn among a people whose suffering and unjust fate 
have been scanted for far too long and with too little humanitarian 
and political attention. Sacco's art has the power to detain us, to 
keep us from impatiently wandering off in order to follow a 
catch-phrase or a lamentably predictable narrative of triumph and 
fulfillment. And this is perhaps the greatest of his achievements."

Here is a page from "Palestine":


The book is available from amazon.com

Louis Proyect, lnp3@panix.com on 05/24/2002

Marxism list: http://www.marxmail.org

< < <
Date Index
> > >
World Systems Network List Archives
at CSF
Subscribe to World Systems Network < < <
Thread Index
> > >