Nonfiction — print. Drawn and Quarterly, 2003. 140 pgs. Library copy.
During his coverage of the Bosnian genocide and the Balkan conflict, Sacco worked with a rather shady character known as a “fixer” – someone who can assist foreign journalists with gaining access to the front-lines of the conflict, the warlords and gangs running the countryside as the nation is torn apart, and victims to provide stories to color the news articles being written about the region.
Sacco’s “fixer”, known as Neveen, was a former solider involved in the conflict if not the genocide itself, although he claims to support the multiculturalism of the former Yugoslavia. He knows exactly who to talk to in order to help Sacco find the best sources; he knows exactly what to do to extract the highest price for his services.
Nearly ten years later, Sacco returns to Sarajevo intent on meeting up with his former fixer. His focus in this short graphic memoir is not the conflict itself but rather the “fixers” and how the new Bosnian government has decided to deal with the people who profited in a time of war.
The history and the timeline are rather muddled in the memoir as Sacco alternates between the past, the present, and the memories Neveen claims to have, but I found that to be the most beautiful aspect of the book. How do journalists determine truth and lies? How do journalists inform and construct their narratives?
Sacco readily admits that he cannot verify Neveen’s claims that he is a Serb who did not join the Serbian Army, that he singlehandedly blew up multiple tanks. And, instead, he presents such stories as shades of grey allowing the reader to understand how complicated truth and reconciliation are following genocide and war.
I wish the narrative had slowed a bit and Sacco had included more background information. The shades of grey become a bit overwhelming without much firm truth to ground yourself in, and it was not always clear from the drawings exactly where in time and space or which person was the focus. (Particularly problematic when there are two people with the same name.) But I appreciate the book for what it did offer and I certainly would like to read more of Sacco’s work in the future.