Joe Sacco’s work portrays painful realities

REVIEW:  “Safe Area Gorazde,” by Joe Sacco (2000)


I have never been so disturbed by a book before this one. And I have read books about war. But Joe Sacco’s use of art to communicate a story penetrates deeper into the soul than mere words.

“Safe Area Gorazde” is a journalistic graphic novel that details life in Gorazde, Bosnia between 1992-1995. Gorazde is a Bosnian town that was surrounded by Serb separatist forces and was designated a safe area by the United Nations. During the Communist rule of Tito, the town’s Muslims and Serbs lived side-by-side. But when Serb separatist forces surround the city to “cleanse” it of non-Serbs, the Muslim population is essentially betrayed by its Serbian neighbors and forced to cling to the remnants of their town during a three-year siege.

Sacco tells his story as any journalist does – through interviews and personal accounts of witnesses – but his ability to depict the story in pictures creates a searing connection from reader to victim.

Also by Joe Sacco:

  • “Palestine,” by Joe Sacco (1996). In another book of comics journalism, Sacco tells the story of the Palestinians hoping to air the grievances of the Israelis to a country whose foreign policy supports the other side.

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