December 25th, 2008

christmas

In the beginning was the Word

᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος.
Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν.
πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἓν ὃ γέγονεν.
ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων.
καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

Collapse )

Anyway, all of that aside, I wish everyone a happy and relaxed day, especially if, like me, you are celebrating it.
earthsea

December Books 9) Berlin: City of Smoke

9) Berlin: City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes

I really enjoyed the first volume of this series, and I really enjoyed this one as well. Covering the period from June 1929 to September 1930, it doesn't have the same narrative climax (May Day 1929) as the previous book, but it does have a strong set of internal plot arcs. Marthe and Kurt delve deeper into the heart of what makes the city tick, but at the cost of their own relationship; Kid Hogan, an African American jazz clarinettist, finds love and corruption in the city's music halls; and the marginalised, the exploited, the Jews, the Communists, the unemployed, all have their stories at least illuminated if not necessarily told. I'm only sorry that, first, we will presumably have to wait another four years for the next and final volume, and second, that it will presumably only take us to the Nazi seizure of power. But this is strongly recommended.
war

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.