Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-5

by Joe Sacco

Paperback, 2010




Seattle: Fantagraphics Books, (2010)


Joe Sacco's work of "comic journalism" plus the author's illustrated essay of how the project came together. Includes the author's photos and the comic book pages drawn from them and an interview with the author.

User reviews

LibraryThing member LovingLit
The graphic novel is a good book to read snippets of throughout the day. I was able to put away a fair amount of the book before lunchtime, and then finished it off (uninterrupted) in the evening. I found that I read quickly, and didn't pay the attention that was due to the lovely images (so much
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work went into this book!).

So, the author Joe Sacco is a journalist. He was sent to Eastern Bosnia (cities/towns you may have heard of there are Sarajevo, Gorazde and the now infamous Srebrenica) to cover the Bosnian War. Media attention was focussed on Sarajevo, but languishing further to the East was the designated Safe Area of Gorazde. Its status as safe was in name only. The Bosnian Serbs shelled it, had snipers based around it, many many people were killed and injured, and eventually after 3.5 years of this the Muslim population were forced out. The town was eventually "handed back" once peace was declared, but was surrounded by Serbian territory, with only a narrow corridor connecting it to the rest of Bosnia.

The author/illustrator spent a total of 4 weeks in Gorazde and made friends there who told him their stories of the various offensives they endured, the escapes, near-misses, sightings of mass murders, burning and looting of their homes, the constant moving around to safety, trying to exist on meager food available, the lack of information and communication. This is the human face of war. You see the faces in the illustrations and it makes for a fuller story.

For me this book highlighted the problems with modern media: they fly in for a few shots of the war-torn area, talk to one or two people for a "sound-bite" and then fly out again. The true, fully-fleshed stories never come out until afterwards. Despicable things were happening to the Bosnian Muslims, and nothing was done as the UN "had to keep impartial". The Serbian leaders were making promises of cease-fire and then breaking them straight away, they did this multiple times even in a day. Yet, the UN kept on refusing to intervene, I presume choosing to trust the word of the Serbian leader over evidence that massacres were occurring.

This book pushes through all the soundbites and official statements, and tells it like it really was for people living as prisoners in their own town. Sad and traumatising, but real stories.
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LibraryThing member Arctic-Stranger
This is the first graphic novel I ever read, and it started me on a long journey. I got it to read on an airplane, and wished I hadnt when tears were falling down my cheeks after reading certain sections. Sacco does an excellent job or portraying the life of people who live in a small pocket of
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relative safety. He presents the people as they are; sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry.
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LibraryThing member dr_zirk
Safe Area Gorazde is a stunning work, combining the best traits of journalism, comics, and historical non-fiction. What really makes this book exceptional is the fact that Joe Sacco has mastered all of the elements of his craft - the writing and the art hold up equally well despite the high
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standards that Sacco has evidently set for himself.

The tale told herein is alternately thrilling, horrifying, and redeeming, but manages to hit all of those high points without an excess of authorial intervention. Sacco lets the incredible story carry us along with little overt preaching or moralizing. This is not easy to do with material that relates such a powerful tale of the worst shortcomings of the human race.

I think that until I read Safe Area Gorazde, I didn't really grasp just what the hell had gone wrong in Bosnia in the early nineties. This book cleared a lot of things up for me, and did so with an incredibly compelling narrative and graphic style.
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LibraryThing member iftyzaidi
Another stunning non-fiction graphic novel. Joe Sacco went to live in Gorazde, a small Bosnian Muslim enclave that was cut off from Sarajevo and surrounded by Bosnian Serbian militia groups. It was declared a 'safe area' by the UN for refugees, but that did not prevent it being repeatedly shelled
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and attacked. Sacco here tells the story of Gorazde and the people he came to know there and how they lived and survived through the war. By the time Sacco arrives there, the fighting is mostly over, but the fate of Gorazde is still uncertain, as there is talk of it being traded to the Serbs for territory further to the west. The ruminations by various inhabitants about whether they would leave their homes if this does happen, or whether they could ever live with their Serb neighbours again as they did before the war are truly heartbreaking. This is first class reporting, wonderfully touching, brutally honest and beautifully illustrated. The people Sacco came to know are shown with their faults and quirks, not lionized or idealized but shown in all their humanity. I can't recommend this enough.
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LibraryThing member primalprayer
This is an amazing way to gain insight into the recent Yugoslavian conflict. The drawings give images to the horrible accounts being told, making them resonate within you. The author provides easy to understand and accurate historical information about the conflict. This book will tear your heart
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Four stars, plus an added 1/2 for the tears. Sacco's drawings are dark and real (crosshatching will get you everywhere, my dear), needfully ugly, when the time comes, without being needlessly ugly. He shows his gratitude to the people of Gorazde for embracing him and his sorrow at all the shocking
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sick sad times they had to go through, and your heart goes out to them - heroes, or if the measure of a hero is that he goes out looking, not heroes but incredibly brave people with good hearts. Like a cross between my Austrian family and my Turkish friends, all of whom you hope will never have to see their homes descend into hell like this and pray will be able to bear up if they do.

And that brings us to the "How could this happen? Why did it happen here?" and the other real strength of this book is how Sacco sets the ground's-eye stories and portraits of friends in larger political context - you feel like you've gotten a really good lecture on the subject as well as yer human interest. And he is damning, especially to the UN and the West generally. And good for him. I think I understand why decisionmakers fumbled the Yugoslav breakup so badly, aside from all the political expediancy reasons - the cold war was over and we all just wanted the world to be better and get nicer than it . . . got and is. Which is understandable, and forgivable in a teenage boy like I was back then, but not so much when innocents start dying of a put-upon people's pique and all you've got is cowards in blue helmets and magnificent statements of concern.
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LibraryThing member JerryColonna
Startling and compelling, like any great graphic novel. Made me realize how little I understood about the Balkan Wars.
LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
As a comic book nerd I've long enjoyed Joe Sacco's amazing work. Superb journalism presented in comic book format, he is an artist who reminds us of all of the promise in the format.

I bought Safe Area Goražde at my local comic book store because I am in a period of learning more about the Bosnian
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War and it was by Joe Sacco and I could afford it at the time. I read it following my read of Logavina Street by Barbara Demick and it was a great companion piece. Where Demick's book is all about Sarajevo, Sacco's is about conditions in Safe Area Goražde, a small place that was under unrelenting siege from 1992 to 1995. Sacco gives a great deal of background information about the conflict while at the same time humanizing it through format and the eyes of the people who lived through the siege (including his own). Each in their own put themselves in the center of the stories they're telling - an acknowledgment of the myth of objectivity.

I've read a lot of history and a lot of historical fiction and when the words "siege warfare" come up I tend to think about castles and knights and big walls and the people inside eating their horses. Safe Area Goražde taught me a lot about modern siege warfare and opened my eyes further to a story I have neglected. It is simple to understand why Mr. Sacco won the Eisner Award for this book. Brilliant, heart-stopping, and terribly sad this is a work of genius - highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member bjeans
I'm new to the graphic novel genre but I feel it's becoming a fast-growing and relevant resource; so I've been checking out a few books. I think this particular novel provides an engaging collaborative medium of illustration and journalistic report. Excellent supplementary material for anyone
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interested in the Bosnian war.
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LibraryThing member catzkc
This graphic novel has better explained the origins and start of the Bosnian Wars, than anything else I’ve read. But the most horrifying thing is the similarities I see happening now in U.S. politics.
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Safe Area Goražde gets four stars because it covers a war that doesn't get enough attention. It earns its four stars for giving voice to many who would not have otherwise been heard. It gets four stars for not shying away from the horror of the war. And it gets four stars for trying to educate a
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As an annal of the Bosnian War as told through graphic novel, Safe Area Goražde succeeds. It could be better. It tells about only a fragment of the conflict, but this is to be expected, I guess, in a work of journalism by a solo observer. But, Sacco does not remain an impartial observer as one would expect from this style of journalism. My complaints about Sacco do not end there.

Sacco's gross misrepresentation of self was horribly distracting. It's not that Sacco is a fabulous artist, particularly in regards to the human face, but no character is portrayed as cartoonish and malformed as Sacco's own. Having finished the book, I did a search for the author's photo, half expecting to find a monstrous facsimile of the Sacco character. Nope, Sacco's a pretty normal looking guy.

Perhaps this is a reflection of his character, which is also unappealing. Sacco comes off as sort of an invasive creeper, in my opinion. I could not trust the guys intentions. And if this is how the author himself presents his character, I have to wonder how much worse it might have truly been.
Safe Area Goražde is a good graphic novel almost entirely because of its subject. The authorial intrusion was unnecessary though. Was Sacco's character needed at all? Sure, it helps place the journalist in the conflict, but I would've been more invested in the story at the heart of the book with his inclusion kept to an absolute minimum. It's the promise of his presence in his other works of journalism that will likely keep me away.
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LibraryThing member questbird
This journalistic graphic novel was a revelation to me, that the medium could (and should) be used this way. Joe Sacco stayed in the supposed 'safe area Gorazde' and interviewed the inhabitants and survivors. This book gave me a better picture of the Yugoslavian war than I had known and included
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some truly horrific graphics -- all the worse because they were real.
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