The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo by Joe Sacco Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo

When bombs are falling and western journalism is the only game left in town “fixers” are the people who sell war correspondents the human tragedy and moral outrage that makes news editors happy.

It’s dangerous, a little amoral and a lot desperate.

Award-winning comix-journalist Joe Sacco goes behind the scene of war correspondence to reveal the anatomy of the big scoop. He b

It’s dangerous, a little amoral and a lot desperate.

Award-winning comix-journalist Joe Sacco goes behind the scene of war correspondence to reveal the anatomy of the big scoop. He begins by returning us to the dying days of Balkan conflict and introduces us to his own fixer; a man looking to squeeze the last bit of profit from Bosnia before the reconstruction begins. Thanks to a complex relationship with the fixer Joe discovers the crimes of opportunistic warlords and gangsters who run the countryside in times of war. But the west is interested in a different spin on the stories coming out of Bosnia. Almost ten years later, Joe meets up with his fixer and sees how the new Bosnian government has “dealt” with these criminals and Joe ponders who is holding the reins of power these days…
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    Pramod Nair

    Nov 03, 2015

    rated it
    really liked it

    “In Sarajevo the pieces are back in place too. Never mind there’s no work or money…”
    the shops are open… the trams are running… the café’s are housing the idle & spewing a relentless Eurobeat…
    And with every few steps one relentless Eurobeat drowns out another, but all the relentless Eurobeats cannot drown out the silence, which is the most relentless thing of all…

    When Joe Sacco – the journalist & cartoonist who is regarded as the creator of the ‘War Correspondence Comics’ genre – visited

    When Joe Sacco – the journalist & cartoonist who is regarded as the creator of the ‘War Correspondence Comics’ genre – visited a post-war Sarajevo in 2001, the city was going through the motions of recovery after a brutal armed conflict. Joe was back in Sarajevo for continuing his research about the Bosnian war and the first thing he observes is the ‘shroud of silence’ that permeated every inch of a city that was cruelly violated; a silence, which was ever present, even among the harshest sounds of blaring music and chatter emanating from the survivors of the city.

    In ‘The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo’, published in 2003, Joe Sacco, takes war correspondence and investigative journalism to an entirely new level, as he provides some glaring insights in to the history of Bosnian war through his splendid artwork and narrative. To make the experience more personal for the reader, Joe introduces ‘Neven’, a Sarajevan survivor of the war – who, like every other war victim or war survivor is a shell of the old self and who has lost everything that meant anything in life – and through this man’s accounts of death, destruction and the varying shades of the act of war that he has seen or participated in, presents the reader with a concise picture of the days leading to and after the armed conflict. Joe made acquaintance of ‘Neven’, who was known as ‘The Fixer’ in the streets, at the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel during his first visit to Bosnia in 1995 during the time of ‘the great siege of Sarajevo’ – the longest siege of a city in the history of modern warfare, which lasted 1,425 days long in a period during 1992 to 1996.

    ‘Neven’ – a former paramilitary operative with connections and influence in the streets of Sarajevo – was often hired by news crews and reporters from global media as a guide in traveling across dangerous wartime areas in Bosnia, and Joe finds in him his first real friend in Sarajevo. In 2001, when Joe Sacco returns to Sarajevo, he finds it difficult to find sources who will open up to him to assist in his research, and we find him longing for ‘Neven’, who was not to be found anywhere. As Joe is searching for ‘Neven’ in Sarajevo, the reader is taken through a maze of cross connecting timelines, which jump between the past and present to illustrate three main sets of events related to the Bosnian war – the events that led to the war, the brutal days of the war and the aftermath of the war; thus building a concise history of an atrocious military conflict from the Twentieth Century.

    Bosnian War through the eyes of ‘The Fixer’

    “Do you know what is the only animal that kills for pleasure?
    That creature is called Homo sapiens”

    ’Neven’ a.k.a ‘The Fixer’

    With an estimated figure of around 100,000 people getting killed, around 50,000 women getting raped and over two million people getting displaced, the Bosnian war is one of the most devastating conflicts that Europe has witnessed after WWII. And through ‘Neven’, Joe brings the enormity of this conflict to the reader.

    From their first meeting in 1995, ‘Neven’ – who was in the ‘Yugoslav People’s Army’ or ‘Jugoslavenska Narodna Armija (JNA) ’ during the early 80s as a sniper and who was part of the paramilitary units during the early years of the Bosnian war – takes Joe under his wings and through their travels around locations in Sarajevo and through his reminiscences, we learn more about the war and ‘Neven’ as a person. Through his descriptions we see the dark clouds of an imminent war assembling over the skies of Bosnia during 1991 as Yugoslavia was slipping towards disintegration and the neighboring Croatia was in the midst of a merciless ethnic war with shocking reports of genocide and mass rapes.

    During that time, Bosnia, which was the most ethnically mixed republic seemed comparatively peaceful to the outside but trouble was already brewing in the inner houses of ethno-political groups. Both the ‘Party of Democratic Action’ – Stranka demokratske akcije or SDA, which was founded as a “party of Muslim cultural-historic circle” – and the ‘Serb Democratic Party’ – Srpska Demokratska Stranka or SDS, which was formed with the aim of unifying the Bosnian Serb community and forming Serb Autonomous Regions – were forming their own paramilitary groups and the stage was getting set for a head-on collision between these major groups.

    “I am a nationalist in the sense that I love my nation. But I don’t hate anybody else.”

    Neven who was born to a Muslim mother & a Serb father chose to join the ‘Green Berets’ militia of the SDA and fought under ‘Ismet “Ćelo” Bajramović’, a cult military figure from the days of the ‘siege of Sarajevo’. These paramilitary units were a strange combination as they were mostly comprised of adventure seekers and people with criminal background, but as they were necessary for the defense purposes the Bosnian government had no choice. Since the territorial defenses of Bosnia were in shambles, when the war began in 1992 with the rebel Serbs and when Sarajevo was under attack, armed ordinary citizens, police forces and the paramilitary Green Berets like ‘Neven’ played key roles in the defense of the city.

    The descriptions of the death raining in the form of artillery shells and sniper fire from high positions held by the Serbian rebels on the inhabitants of Sarajevo and the blood chilling narratives of the days of the siege and the dark chapters of history like the looting, slaughter, racketeering, black marketing and ethnic cleansing that start as a ‘war within the war’ are all rendered by Joe through brilliant artwork and text.

    Why ‘The Fixer’ shines as a Graphic non-fiction

    The artwork by Joe Sacco with the crisp monochrome strokes and gray shades are quiet fascinating to watch and he packs quiet a lot of detail and emotion into each panel. The level of detailing that is put into the architectural drawings, landscapes, people and their expression are all the products of a skilled illustrator. The way in which he infuses the scars of war into these panels through the renderings of physical destruction and capturing the psychological wounds and dejection within the characters is applaudable.

    In one panoramic comic frame, Joe presents the cityscape featuring the Holiday Inn hotel with dark looming storm clouds in the backdrop; a rendering, which captures the wartime atmosphere with the imminent threat of violence in a clever manner. The Scars left by the war is observable in every panel he draws from the post-war timeframe.

    One of the most shocking moments from the book was a single small panel illustrating a small group of soldiers in a landscape walking away from the reader’s point of view leaving behind them a victim of one of the most brutal acts of this war. The illustrator shows only a pair of legs with in the illustration peeking out from a corner of the comic frame, but the implications are instantly recognizable for anyone who is familiar with the ethno-religious warfare, which happened in Bosnia. It was a war, which saw a systematic implementation of ‘mass rapes’ or ‘genocidal rapes’ as an instrument of war. It is estimated that about fifty thousand women and girls had to go through these barbaric acts. Even after watching scores of documentaries dealing with this subject, this small frame from Sacco’s book evoked such a shock within me. No amount of words could have shocked the reader into senses in recognizing the psychological and physical trauma that these survivors and victims had to go through, as Joe has done through a few strokes of his pencil.

    Through the character of ‘Neven’ and this narrative – which essentially is his story as well as the story of every one who was caught up in the cruel crushing wheels of the war machine – Joe Sacco brings some emotionally exhausting yet solid images of a post-war Bosnia in great detail. ‘The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo’ is a brilliant example of wartime journalism and is a brutally honest book, which I will recommend for reader’s who like history. This is graphic non-fiction at its best.
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