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joe sacco interview
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The comic-book journalist on his new book The Fixer.When Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Art Spiegelman flung open the doors to a new breed of comic book with his staggering Holocaust epic Maus, the genre took a vital turn towards acceptance within the literary world. A step away from the anarchic underground “comix” movement of the 60s and 70s, these were powerful, beautifully realised and culturally significant documents.
Palestine, Joe Sacco & The Fixer
Continuing in this fine tradition, and taking the art form into journalism, is comic artist Joe Sacco, whose latest work, The Fixer, examines life in the battered city of Sarajevo following the brutal Balkan war. The book was three years in the writing and drawing and Sacco based his reportage around Neven, a hardened former sniper turned “fixer”, a man paid by foreign journalists to arrange whatever they need in order to file their daily copy. Sacco befriended Neven and was soon building a profile of the conflict and of the shadowy warlords pulling the strings behind it.
“[Neven] was an intimidating character to me, but I was drawn to him because he seemed to know so much and was so strong,” says Sacco. “As someone says in the comic, he was a tower of information. One of themes of the book is how hard it is for a journalist to tell what’s true and what isn’t. Sometimes people will steer journalists in a certain direction. They might not translate all that’s being told, for political or personal reasons. This is what goes on for foreign correspondents.”
But was Sacco ever seen as working in a less important medium than other journalists? “I used to be self-conscious of what I was doing. But they liked what I was doing,” he says. “I didn’t have to file a story every day, so I had more time to research. They began to almost envy me, in a certain sense!”
As with Sacco’s previous landmark works, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, both of which found him as deeply entrenched in war-torn regions, The Fixer is a grippingly intense visual experience, at once humorous and horrific. Sacco is currently constructing his next book, based on his experiences in the Gaza Strip, which will doubtless propel him further into the literary and indeed journalistic stratosphere.
The Fixer by Joe Sacco, out now published by Jonathan Cape.
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