Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

January Books 1) Macedonia

1) Macedonia, by Harvey Pekar and Heather Roberson, illustrated by Ed Piskor

Long-term readers will know of my obsession with Macedonia. This is the story of peace activist Heather Roberson, who went there in the summer of 2003 to find out how the 2001 conflict had been prevented from escalating into another full-scale Balkan war, and acquired an obsession to match mine. She and Pekar portray well her fascination with this paradoxical, contradictory country, exploring Skopje and Tetovo with excursions to Belgrade and Pristina, and I found much to agree with - the curious mixture of paranoia and pessimism which otherwise enlightened individuals sometimes display; the Hotel Ambasador and the Irish Pub in Skopje, the Hotel Moskva in Belgrade, the attitudes of the international officials involved with the local process. Indeed, one or two of the internationals depicted are people I know - mostly identifiable because of the positions they hold, though they are not named and their physical appearance in the book is quite different in real life. One particularly impressive character, who oddly enough has just renewed contact with me via Facebook and LinkedIn, is given a completely different profession in the book to real life but is none the less clearly recognisable to anyone who has met him.

I'm not sure how interesting the book would be to people who don't share the same level of fascination with the country as me and Roberson. It's very text-heavy in places, with an awful lot of background information needed to set her experiences in context (though it seemed to me mostly accurate, with only one or two points where my eyebrows rose in disagreement). Her basic paradigm, that conflicts can be resolved through application of the rule of law, is quite a complex area to explore through the medium of the graphic novel and it's not quite clear what her conclusion actually is, once she has seen her idealistic propositions tested in practice. Also, I'm not sure that she and Pekar quite manage to communicate the sheer charm of the country and its people of all ethnicities; I think the casual reader may end up being rather surprised or sceptical that she likes the country as much as she says she does. And there were a number of annoying errors in the Macedonia/Serbian phrases and street signs shown.

It may not be up to the standards of Safe Area Goražde, but it is nonetheless a fine effort, and certainly would be good reading for anyone thinking of getting involved in Balkan politics these days.
Tags: bookblog 2008, comics, world: macedonia
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