Seeing Jerusalem through Guy Delisle’s Eyes

Myra here.

Last week, I shared Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi’s Jerusalem. This time, I thought of following it through with a non-fiction graphic novel travelogue by Guy Delisle.


Jerusalem: Chronicles From The Holy City

Written and Illustrated by: Guy Delisle Coloured by: Lucie Firoud & Guy Delisle Translated by: Helge Dascher
Published by: Drawn and Quarterly, 2012 ISBN: 1770460713 (ISBN13: 9781770460713) Literary Award: Prix du Festival d’Angoulême for Fauve d’or du meilleur album (2012)
Borrowed a copy of the book from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me. 

I have been seeing Guy Delisle’s graphic novel travelogues for awhile now (I borrowed Burma Chronicles from the library a few years back, but didn’t get a chance to read it). I knew that I can not pass up this opportunity to finally get to know his work through our current reading theme. Add the fact that last week’s graphic novel on Jerusalem did not really provide me with a substantive insight into the actual realities of people who live in the much-disputed Holy City, and so I was hoping that this one will.

Guy Delisle’s partner/girlfriend worked for the Medicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) and was assigned to Israel. The story began with their flight to Israel, and ended with their flight back to Canada. From what I can deduce, Guy is the trailing spouse/partner (a term commonly used among expatriates for the spouse who travels with his or her life partner to another city because of work opportunities). I was amused by how self-deprecating he was – as could be seen in this portrayal of a day in the life of a cartoonist based overseas:

Much of the success of a travelogue or a travel memoir lies in the reader being able to somewhat connect or relate to the narrator. Guy basically takes the reader on a journey through Israel, the West Bank, the wall, the mosques, Ramallah, through his largely-non-judgmental eyes, his artist’s gaze, his seeming laid-back nature, and his astute observations of his environment (see images below).

There were also instances when he cleverly allowed his images to tell the harrowing story of what it’s like to cross checkpoints within the same city: from Ramallah to the West Bank. There really are no words:

While I could somewhat discern what Guy’s political leanings were, it was in the latter part that I had a clearer picture – which also affirmed my own thoughts and perceptions about what is going on now in Israel:

Guy’s conversation with the MSF’s Palestinian driver as to why he endures everything that is happening to his people, notwithstanding the inhumane treatment that they experience every single day, was also illuminating (and very reminiscent of what I have read in Joe Sacco’s Palestine). 

This is one graphic novel travelogue that I would definitely get for myself eventually. I am now very keen on reading his Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea and his Burma Chronicles. Definitely a comic book creator that any comic geek or travel buff should know about.

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