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Travel Books - Delisle's Jerusalem

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

I am a big fan of the work of Guy Delisle. Delisle is a graphic artist from Quebec, and he has written four travel memoirs in comic book format. His early books are wonderful. Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China (2000), Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (2006), and Burma Chronicles (2008) are all worth checking out. But I think his latest, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (2012), is his best yet. Jerusalem describes the year that Delisle and his family spent living in East Jerusalem when his wife, Nadège, was working for Médicins Sans Frontières.

While his wife is away dodging rockets in Gaza, Delisle explores his new home, trying to balance work and child rearing. He chronicles the absurdities of living in the world’s most fought-over city, such as the endless queues at armed checkpoints and the traffic jams on pointless detours around the tall concrete walls which separate neighbourhood from neighbourhood. He has trouble keeping track of the many holy days and the taboos they impose, and has difficulty navigating the parallel transit systems, one Arab and one Israeli, which overlap but never connect. His pose as a bemused outsider-looking-in serves him well. He is sensitive to the nuances and history of Jerusalem, and he strives to be fair, but his dislike of hate-mongers of any stripe comes out on every page. When he hears about three competing sects of Christianity coming to blows in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Christ’s crucifixion and burial, he thanks God for making him an atheist. At one point in the book he takes parallel tours to the same fiercely-contested district, once with a pro-Palestinian tour guide, and again with a pro-Israeli tour guide. Each tour covers the same ground, but offers a completely different narrative, and each ends with a visit to the graves of the martyrs. I would like to go to Jerusalem one day. Until then, Guy Delisle has taken me as close as I am likely to get without actually being there. Thank you, Guy.

If you want to find out more about the work of the talented Guy Delisle, you can visit his bilingual web site here.


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