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December Books 10) The Fixer

10) The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo, by Joe Sacco

This is, in a sense, a sequel to Sacco's brilliant Safe Area Goražde, but following just one person, Neven, a Sarajevo Serb, a former fighter on the Bosnian side in the war who Sacco got to know as his "fixer" when he first visited Sarajevo just after the war ended in 1995. (I first went there myself in early 1997, and the city of Sacco's book is definitely the one I knew.)

Anyone who has worked in that sort of environment knows the essential nature of the fixer. Sacco captures it well: but it's not just about Neven's murky past and dubious present, it's also about the dodgy wartime goings on between the "legitimate" government and its bully-boys (and one of the personalities featured in the book was in the news again recently, having apparently committed suicide earlier this month) and the inevitable resulting questions about who is right and who is wrong; and it's also about the effect that Sacco's observation has, not only on the people and situations he is observing, but on Sacco himself.

If there is a weakness in the book, it is perhaps that the casual reader might take Neven's experiences as in some way typical of the Bosnian (or any) war. Neven is a somewhat unusual character. But then again, we are all of us unusual characters, and perhaps Sacco is right to just take a single personality and follow him through the conflict, in his own words and as others reported him. Anyway, well worth reading.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 25th, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
Agreed, it's worth reading. I can't remember - have you read Sacco's Palestine?

(I thought that Gorazde was a stronger book than Palestine, which felt a bit like conflict tourism in places. The Fixer was very much a return to form, imho)
Dec. 26th, 2008 09:24 am (UTC)
I haven't read Palestine yet, but it's on my list...
Dec. 26th, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)
My great shame is that I have never actually done more than skim any of the Sacco books here in Panda Mansions, but one thing I was struck by with The Fixer was the ambiguity over whether Neven was just making up or grossly exaggerating all his stories. I suspect there must be a lot of that kind of thing with people you meet who have been involved in conflict.
Dec. 27th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
Waltz with Bashir
Have you seen the recent film? Any comments?
Dec. 28th, 2008 08:50 am (UTC)
Re: Waltz with Bashir
I must refer you to Ian.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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