Thursday, March 8, 2012

Review: the Fixer and Other Stories

Although I've enjoyed Joe Sacco's long-form journalism works (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde & Footnotes in Gaza), I resisted picking up the Fixer and Other Stories for quite some time, not realizing it comprised three journalism stories from 1997-2003 in the same mold as the aforementioned books.

"The Fixer" is the longest tale, relating how Sacco met Neven, a former soldier in Sarajevo who helped him get about the city in exchange for money. Much of the story involves the tales Neven would tell about what he'd done in the Cold War and in the Yugoslav Wars. Neven's stories are quite engaging, particularly one where he shoots a soldier, relaxes, then the enemy soldier turns out to have survived his first salvo and shoots Neven, knocking him down and forcing him to shoot his gun through its holster before the enemy can fire another round. They're great stories, but over time Sacco begins to wonder how much truth they contain. This is a great companion piece to Safe Area Gorazde, focusing more on the soldiers' lives than the civilians.

Also closely related to Safe Area Gorazde is "Soba," about Sacco's encounters with the titular character, a soldier who became a celebrity in Sarajevo as just about every visiting journalist would seek his commentary on the conflict. It's a short story, but gives space for Soba to elaborate on his activities during the war, his perilous work disarming landmines and his hard-partying lifestyle in Sarajevo.

The last - and least - is "Christmas With Karadzic," detailing how Sacco and two other journalists managed to briefly interview Radovan Karadzic some time before Karadzic was arrested for war crimes. However, it's not really about Karadzic, it's about the journalist trio doing the work to find Karadzic and sharing their reactions to their surroundings. The accompanying journalists' personalities are so strong it overwhelms the narrative about Karadzic - it's probably better suited to a collection around the theme of journalism rather than sitting alongside two pieces about the Yugoslav Wars.

Overall, this book was worth adding to my collection for the Fixer on its own; there's another Sacco collection coming out in a few months and I won't hesitate to pick it up this time!

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