The graphic book Chroniques de Jérusalem, by Guy Delisle (Éditions Delcourt 2011) is still relevant although it was published five years ago, and took place from 2009. The book is also available in English as Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy Land (Drawn and Quarterly 2012; paperback 2015).
I love this memoir or travelogue. It is the first graphic book I’ve read since Maus by Art Spiegelman, ten years after it was published in 1986. I love Chroniques de Jérusalem because it makes me laugh, providing me the relief of “Yes!” That “yes” being the yes of recognition, of seeing your concerns drawn on another’s page. While their apartment was in an area north of ours in East Jerusalem, he found the same surprises: open garbage dumpsters, the fenced off wastelands of weeds and rubble, and when he gets to our neighbourhood, the delicately drawn drifts of garbage on the sidewalks. As his drawn self says, “J’imaginais Jérusalem beaucoup plus moderne que ça.” Indeed. West Jerusalem is somewhat more modern.
Guy Delisle, who left Canada when he was 22, was in Jerusalem as the accompanying spouse of his French wife, who was working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Arriving with two kids, his first task was to visit the shops, which leads to a funny take on which stores one can use: which days they are closed for which religious reasons or whether it is ok to go into a shop in a settlement (an Israeli area on land appropriated from Palestinians). Once the children are at a nursery and school, he moves from illustrating the personal and mundane to broader issues, drawing the dividing wall, the old city and its denizens. He includes what he learns from various NGOs, such as his wife’s reports of the Gaza War (December 2008 to January 2009) and his own outing with the women who bear witness at the checkpoints (Machsomwatch). At the end, right before they leave, he visits Sheikh Jarrah with the man he sells his car to. The man was up all night trying to help a Palestinian family keep their home. They failed. The frame before the airport shows Delisle looking up at an Israeli man standing on the roof of the house, saying “It’s my house now!”
I am not the only one to rave about Delisle’s book. Chroniques de Jérusalem won the Angoulême International Comics festival Prize for Best Album in 2012. Nor is it his only book. On Delisle’s website I count sixteen albums or graphic books. Most are available in English, such as Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (2005), Burma Chronicles (2008), Shenzen: A Travelogue from China (2006) and several takes on parenting, including The Owner’s Manual to Terrible Parenting (2015). His most recent work is neither funny nor about himself. Instead, he writes and draws about an MSF administrator taken hostage in 1997. Already available in French, Hostage will be out in English in May 2017, published by Drawn and Quarterly.
- Guy Delisle website
- Drawn and Quarterly website
- About his new book: “Le dessinateur montpelliérain Guy Delisle va passe du cocon familial à la Tchétchénie.” franceinfo
- Guardian review of Burma Chronicles and interview.