Books about cities are tricky things. Do you write about your own travels and experiences in it? Or about its history? Do you get into verbal descriptions or let pictures do the work? Imagine someone being able to do all of that – yes, ALL – in one simple book. We are talking about Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.
Jerusalem is what people these days call a graphic novel. It is a comic strip about Delisle’s experience in the city. Delisle is a Canadian cartoonist and animator (and writer) who travels wherever his wife (who works in Medicins Sans Frontiers) goes, often taking care of their child when she goes to work. And this time, they ended up in one of the most historic, holy and disputed cities in the world – Jerusalem.
The book is almost all about Delisle walking in the streets of Jerusalem, observing culture and history. And no, he does not shy away from controversies – he also covers how Palestinians are treated. The illustrations are not spectacular. Some might find them a little too “basic” but somehow they convey a lot, especially when combined with Delisle’s writing, which is quite amazing. There are references to the city’s past, its monuments, its diverse people from different classes and backgrounds, its near paranoid security precautions, and its possible future. All narrated through words and images. Told in a manner that is simple and yet sensitive.
When you have read the last page, you will find you will know Jerusalem. Better than you could have figured out from any other book or video, no matter how well produced it was. This is travel writing at its best – simple and informative and giving you a feel of the place and its people. We really think that this is the best book we have read about any city. Which is why you must read it. Even if you are not interested in Jerusalem. Or think that comics are for kids.