Review – Safe Area Gorzade by Joe Sacco

safe areajoe

Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 is a work of graphic journalism.  Joe Sacco was a war reporter who chose to present his findings in such a unique manner.  His book is completely non-fiction and all of the characters are real people.  This book is absolutely wonderful and I can’t stop thinking about it.

First, for me, this was a complete learning experience.  I think I grew up hearing about the war on television, but  I was so young, I never really understood what it was about.  This book explained the history of the war in Eastern Bosnia perfectly.   I have a basic understanding and the description never got too technical or difficult to understand.  But it didn’t downplay the tragedy either.  A multi-ethnic state, divided between three nationalities, and also three religions, post World War II Bosnia was mostly peaceful thanks to their leader.  When he left office, the new leader began the process of ethnic cleansing.  The result was the murder of the majority of the Muslims in Bosnia.  Safe area Gorazde was one of the only UN-protected enclaves that allowed Muslims to live in peace, sometimes.   The people who lived in Gorazde were virtually isolated from the world, with little conveniences or comforts, plus the frequent attacks by the Serbian army.

I wonder if some people might be put off by the use of the comic medium to explain such a tragic story, but I found it to be a particularly moving method that allowed for the horrors of war to be expressed visually, but also allowed the humanity to shine through.  That is what makes it unique.  It is a way for the humor, a way to keep what you are reading human.  Photographs or words alone would not have done the people in this story justice.  The people that Sacco meets are so absolutely real that I connected with them immediately.   It really got me thinking about what it would be like to live in such isolation and through such tragedy.


92% – Highly recommended.  A unique reading experience.

Did you read and review Safe Area Gorazde? Let me know and I’ll link you!

Author recommendation from Bradleigh.


8 thoughts on “Review – Safe Area Gorzade by Joe Sacco

  1. Ugh. Can’t believe you read this before I did, but I’m glad you liked it. Sacco’s work in this medium can seem unparalleled at times. Why people slobber all over Watchmen when ultimately consequential graphic lit is out there is beyond me; I’ll take purpose over fantasy any day, always.

  2. Oo sounds like a unique medium to convey such a tragic story! I think I’ll look for this since I’m not all that clear about the history of this area myself.

  3. What has Watchmen got to do with anything?

    I totally agree with you about the use of the comic medium actually making it more powerful. The drawings connect you to these people and paradoxically they become more real than photographs would be. A photograph, for me, can be quite distancing because it’s ultimately a moment captured through two gazes: the camera gaze and the viewers. Whereas illustration is from the gaze of the artist, who processes it themselves. I think that because it’s not trying to be a exact replica of a moment but rather a moment captured through the perspective of the artist, a drawing can sometimes be more real. However, I’m not dismissing photography but in this case the use of drawing adds to the experience. Hmm.

    I recommend The Fixer, if you haven’t already read it. Plus, Palestine.

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