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Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia Nineteen Ninety-Two to Nineteen Ninety-Five

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Now available in softcover, Safe Area Gorazde is Joe Sacco's 240-page best-selling opus about war in the former Yugoslavia. Sacco spent months in Bosnia in 1995-1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime, researching stories rarely found in conventional news coverage. The book focuses on the Muslim enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war. Sacco spent four weeks in Gorzade, entering before the Muslims trapped inside had access to the outside world, electricity or running water.

227 pages, School & Library Binding

First published June 1, 2000

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About the author

Joe Sacco

80 books1,210 followers
Joe Sacco was born in Malta on October 2, 1960. At the age of one, he moved with his family to Australia, where he spent his childhood until 1972, when they moved to Los Angeles. He began his journalism career working on the Sunset High School newspaper in Beaverton, Oregon. While journalism was his primary focus, this was also the period of time in which he developed his penchant for humor and satire. He graduated from Sunset High in 1978.

Sacco earned his B.A. in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1981 in three years. He was greatly frustrated with the journalist work that he found at the time, later saying, "[I couldn't find] a job writing very hard-hitting, interesting pieces that would really make some sort of difference." After being briefly employed by the journal of the National Notary Association, a job which he found "exceedingly, exceedingly boring," and several factories, he returned to Malta, his journalist hopes forgotten. "...I sort of decided to forget it and just go the other route, which was basically take my hobby, which has been cartooning, and see if I could make a living out of that," he later told the BBC.

He began working for a local publisher writing guidebooks. Returning to his fondness for comics, he wrote a Maltese romance comic named Imħabba Vera ("True Love"), one of the first art-comics in the Maltese language. "Because Malta has no history of comics, comics weren't considered something for kids," he told Village Voice. "In one case, for example, the girl got pregnant and she went to Holland for an abortion. Malta is a Catholic country where not even divorce is allowed. It was unusual, but it's not like anyone raised a stink about it, because they had no way of judging whether this was appropriate material for comics or not."

Eventually returning to the United States, by 1985 Sacco had founded a satirical, alternative comics magazine called Portland Permanent Press in Portland, Oregon. When the magazine folded fifteen months later, he took a job at The Comics Journal as the staff news writer. This job provided the opportunity for him to create another satire: the comic Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy, a name he took from an overly-complicated children's toy in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.

But Sacco was more interested in travelling. In 1988, he left the U.S. again to travel across Europe, a trip which he chronicled in his autobiographical comic Yahoo. The trip lead him towards the ongoing Gulf War (his obsession with which he talks about in Yahoo #2), and in 1991 he found himself nearby to research the work he would eventually publish as Palestine.

The Gulf War segment of Yahoo drew Sacco into a study of Middle Eastern politics, and he traveled to Israel and the Palestinian territories to research his first long work. Palestine was a collection of short and long pieces, some depicting Sacco's travels and encounters with Palestinians (and several Israelis), and some dramatizing the stories he was told. It was serialized as a comic book from 1993 to 2001 and then published in several collections, the first of which won an American Book Award in 1996.

Sacco next travelled to Sarajevo and Goražde near the end of the Bosnian War, and produced a series of reports in the same style as Palestine: the comics Safe Area Goražde, The Fixer, and the stories collected in War's End; the financing for which was aided by his winning of the Guggenheim Fellowship in April 2001. Safe Area Goražde won the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel in 2001.

He has also contributed short pieces of graphic reportage to a variety of magazines, on subjects ranging from war crimes to blues, and is a frequent illustrator of Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. Sacco currently lives in Portland.

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5 stars
4,804 (49%)
4 stars
3,336 (34%)
3 stars
1,133 (11%)
2 stars
241 (2%)
1 star
165 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 538 reviews
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 7 books591 followers
April 22, 2008
Really bad things happened in Bosnia and dumb-asses like me read about it in a comic book. I shrink in shame.


Profile Image for Kirsten.
2,126 reviews88 followers
February 22, 2008
I think this may be one of the most moving and gut-wrenching books about war that I've ever read. I'm not sure why it made so much more of an impact on me than all of the other books of war journalism I've read over the years. There's something about it that just really gets under your skin. Maybe it's that Sacco can show us these people -- not just tell us what they looked like, but actually draw them as they look when they are most vulnerable or most ugly and violent. The plight of the denizens of Gorazde really got to me; I found myself walking home from work turning the story over in my mind. I think what hit me, which had never hit me before so much, was the realization that these were people who lived lives very much like mine: they went to school, they came home and watched TV and hung out with their neighbors and went to clubs. And then, in a matter of months, people from the city were freezing to death trying to walk to find food. The neighbors that they shared food with were killing each other. It really shook me up, the idea that life could go so quickly from peace and normality to something so horrific.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
April 26, 2021
I can't remember who recommended this to me (sorry!) but I'm glad I was able to find this at the library, a journalist's account of the war in Bosnia, specifically Gorazde, from 1992-95, as well as the immediate aftermath. I appreciated the point of view of the Muslims left in the city when their Serbian neighbors left suddenly and then became their enemies, and the graphic treatment captures the wide ranging emotions from bewilderment to betrayal. And then trying to understand the decisions made by the UN and Nato, and the worry about being "traded" in the final resolution. The image focus allows for extras like maps, which aids in my understanding for sure. How Gorazde connects to Sarajevo, or doesn't, is really important.

This story connects directly to The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric, which is on my shelf but maybe should be my follow-up read. The author also recommends some nonfiction reads in the back that look helpful in providing some broader context.

I once worked at a bakery with one Bosnian refugee and one Serbian refugee and they refused to interact...I'm starting to get it.

This is for my Europe2021 project, and of course CW for all war related topics, possibly more disturbing because they are portrayed and brains might remember images differently.
Profile Image for Ana.
557 reviews122 followers
September 4, 2021
Estou boquiaberta por uma infinidade de motivos que dariam para um vídeo/texto gigantesco!
Este livro, esta NG pode não ser o relato de não-ficção mais imparcial, mas é assombroso e fez-me aprender muitíssimo!

Uma das melhores leituras deste 2021, sem qualquer dúvida!

Desenvolvi tudinho aqui, a partir do minuto 14:26:
Profile Image for Malbadeen.
613 reviews7 followers
January 6, 2010
If you asked me to summarize this book with one word I would say...

If you gave me two worlds, I would say...

If you gave me three, I would say...

Occasionally I feel remiss when it comes to world history/politics/current events. Occasionally it occurs to my knowledge of wars goes something like this:

-people in North America didn't like taxes so they threw tea around and then there was a war and now we have 4th of July.

-People were mean and stupid and awful and had slaves, other people were intelligent and good and knew slavery was wrong, they fought and slavery became illegal

-In the 40's there were the unthinkable events that were the holocust.

-In some countries there was/is genocide.

-In Cambodia there was killing (specifically in "fields").

-Christians and Jews keep fighting over some land - maybe Palestine?


Sooooooooooo - from time to time I think I really should get up to speed on the worlds atrocities so I pick up some thing that I think will be a quick fix. In this case it was this book. "Perfect" I thought. A graphic novel - finally a medium I can get behind for history.

But here's the thing. I don't know how much more informed I am about the War in Easter Bosnia but I am further informed about how unfathomably insanely cruel people can be.

While I didn't expect this to be light hearted or breezy, I certainly wasn't prepared for the depth of horror I felt. There were MANY, MANY panels I had to cover the illustration with my hands as I read the words. I just couldn't look anymore. There was more than one page that had me near tears and I looked forward to every break in chapter so I could close the book and re-group my wits again.

Like I said, IT WAS INTENSE!

He'll be at Powell's on Jan 12th at 7:30.
Profile Image for Sandra.
743 reviews
September 5, 2019
As coisas que eu não sabia sobre a guerra na Bósnia, integrada na Guerra Civil Jugoslava, dava para preencher um livro.
Mais especificamente um livro com mais de 200 páginas.

Esta NÃO É uma banda desenhada para jovens ou crianças.
Tem cenas de guerra bem explícitas, algumas indescritíveis de tão horrendas.

E o papel da NATO e da ONU?
Perante massacres com particulares hipérboles de tortura e mutilações, eis que tivemos um representante da ONU, de seu nome Yasushi Akashi, que a meu ver (e desculpem a minha agressividade que provém apenas da minha revolta) merecia duas chapadas bem dadas e obrigarem-no a viver 1 mês numa das zonas de limpeza étnica e religiosa.

Resumindo: acabei mesmo agora de ler este livro.
Sinto-me zangada.

Uma leitura OBRIGATÓRIA!
Profile Image for Schuyler.
208 reviews62 followers
March 17, 2010
Devasting is the first word that comes to mind. The story of the Bosnian War is a bit complicated (like most wars) but here is a radically condensed summary: Yugoslavia was made up of mostly Croatians, Serbians, and Muslims. And after WWII, the then president Josip Broz, commonly known as Tito, looked to down play ethnic nationalism and have each group live side by side peacefully. Then Tito died and Serbian nationalism took hold through the new Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, who became the president of the Yugoslavian Federation. Intimidated and scared by Slobodan's renewed Serbian nationalism (leftover from post WWII atrocites perpetrated on the Serbs), Crotia and Slovenia declared independence, leaving Bosnia to stand alone against the now hostile Serbia. So...war descends upon Bosnia, though "war" isn't really the right term because that implies two, more or less equal, sides fighting it out but really it was essentially ethnic cleansing of the heavily underarmed Muslims by the Serbs. Now, remember, Serbs and Muslims had lived peacefully side by side. They were each others friends, neighbors. But much of the Serb population had fled during this time, leaving mostly Bosniaks (Muslims) in Gorazade. So when the fighting began, it was the Bosniaks old friends and neighbors who came for them. Again, this information is skeletal. This is by no means a complete picture.

But that's where Sacco comes in. Through his reporting and interviews in Gorazde (one of the designated "safe areas" by the UN, whose power is largely portrayed as a joke throughout the book), all of the war's nuances begin to emerge. And all of the war's tragedies. Make no mistake, this is a bloody, gruesome, unflinching, compelling account of what was happening in Gorazade and Bosnia. The mass murders, mass graves. The snipers. The constant artillery fire. The understaffed, ill-equipped hospital, over run with grotesque injuries, with little more than brandy to dull the pain. Doctors amputating legs with kitchen knives. Dead children. Legless children. Rape. Houses looted and burned. Civilians drenched in gasoline, left to burn alive.

The vignette that haunted me the most was one from Visegrad, a small town just north of Gorazade. A man retells the horrors he witnessed from his window, as he watched Serbs load his neighbors in the back of a truck, take them to a near by bridge and proceeded to slit their throats, one by one, tossing their bodies into the waiting river below. All night, he could hear the continuous splash of bodies hitting water. Men, women, children. No one was spared. In the course of three days, he estimated he saw 200-300 people murdered on that bridge.

The art work is stark. Black and white. Shimmering, harsh, almost nightmaric. Sacco's style renders the Bosnian landscape and its people beautifully. I travelled down through parts of Eastern Europe in 2002. Slovakia, Hungary, Crotia, and flew out of Sarajevo. Walked down "Sniper Alley". Stood on the bridge where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. Most buildings were in varying states of war-torn decay. The region was stupidly beautifully at times and ridiculously sad at others. Sacco does a great service to Gorazde and their surrounding neighbors, showing us through the eyes and stories ot its citizens, that even under tragic circumstances, life can still be lived with joy, grace, and hope.

Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
June 20, 2018
I recently read Terrorist, a comics history book about the assassination that triggered WWI, and was nudged to reread Sacco's wonderful text, set in the same region, speaking to some of the same ethnic politics/history, of course, and I discovered this special edition, issued in 2011. I think the original came out in 2001, and it was based, like his also classic Palestine, on Sacco's first person comics journalism in the region. He isn't ever trying to pretend he is just some fly on the wall. He's there, and is often self-deprecating, revealing his limitations as an observer; he isn't trying to give the impression that he has a panoramic scope. He hangs out with a teacher in Goradze over the space of a couple years, after much damage had already been done there, and he shows us as a journalist he has special privileges as people he becomes close friends with suffer. At the same time, his emphasis is of course on that suffering.

The heart of Sacco's tale of this Bosnian genocide at the hands of Serbs is in the interviews of people he documents, people who reveal horrific stories of the catastrophe there. Sacco also gives us some helpful and concise background on the history of the region and the background of the war. While he does talk to Serbs to try and understand how it is the massacre happened, he is not trying to be objective. He was there in Gorazde and helps people there tell their stories of unthinkable horror, survivor tales.

This edition has a great short intro by Christopher Hitchens, an essay by Sacco looking back on his journalism, complete with many photographs he used to make sure he got the details right. He's just amazing artist. This wonderful edition concludes with a Where They Are Now section (bringing us up to date, ten years later, on the key people he interviewed) and an interview with Sacco by Fantagraphics's Gary Groth, which provides an amazingly detailed look at the craft. This is harrowing, devastating, admirable comics, by one of the greatest ever, doing great work, showing what comics are capable of doing for the world, through political journalism. Must read comics and invaluable in this edition.
Profile Image for Melki.
5,800 reviews2,342 followers
February 11, 2012
Ethnic cleansing, torture, and rape seem like strange subjects for a graphic novel, yet somehow...this book works. Seeing the faces of the victims, not just reading about them, only serves to make the story all the more horrifying.

Sacco uses his black and white drawings as photo journalism, telling the tale of a safe zone that proved to be anything but safe for its residents. He offers up a history of the war through interviews with survivors, many living in bombed out shells that used to be homes and office buildings. Most of their tales are quite upsetting. They have witnessed scenes a human being should never have to see.

There are some moments of levity woven into the many pages of terror. The younger people meet to smoke and drink. They love American movies and music, and are tired of being cut off from the rest of the world. The girls long for makeup and Levis. One man has completely memorized a years-old Newsweek magazine. Many have not seen their loved ones in Sarajevo for years. They complain, and talk about their hopes and dreams.

This book was a good overview of a war I knew little about, and still can't claim to understand.
Profile Image for Fact100.
219 reviews23 followers
April 19, 2020
Objektif bir gazetecinin elinden çıkmışçasına detaylı ve tarafsız bir tarih kitabı olarak da değerlendirilebilecek bu yürek parçalayan eser insanlığın iyi ve kötü birçok yönünü ustalıkla önümüze sererek vicdanlarımıza sesleniyor. Yazar/çizerin, yakın geçmişimizin yüz karalarından biri olan bu trajediyi bu kadar sağlam bir yazı dili ve böyle cüretkar çizimlerle, yalın ve dokunaklı biçimde işleyebilmesi gerçekten takdir edilesi. Kimin haklı, kimin haksız olduğunu görmekten ziyade insanoğlunun ne vicdansızlıklara muktedir olduğunu görerek, neden daha iyi bir insan olmamız gerektiğini öğrenmek, hatırlamak ve unutmamak için böyle eserlere her zaman ihtiyacımız var.
Profile Image for Nuno R..
Author 7 books58 followers
September 21, 2022
Quando comecei a ler este volume, na altura apenas conhecia MAUS como banda desenhada de não-ficção. Mais ainda do que ver memórias transformadas em banda desenhada, surpreendeu-me encontrar reportagem de qualidade neste formato. É tocante verificar que o próprio trabalho jornalístico é foco das histórias contadas. Joe Sacco desenha o seu avatar para nos revelar como a sua investigação se processa. Estas páginas são tanto sobre a Guerra da Bósnia como sobre o trabalho de um jornalista de guerra. Há um paradoxo que se volta a encontrar, em autores de BD mais recentes, como o Guy Delisle. Porque o autor se recria como personagem, o tom aproxima-se da auto-ficção. Mas, de forma inesperada, a história parece mais credível, mais real, menos artificial. Talvez assim, por termos uma crónica que inclui os bastidores e não apenas a narrativa acabada, tudo nos pareça mais genuíno.
Profile Image for Aamil Syed.
161 reviews36 followers
December 10, 2015
What a vivid portrayal of a shameful human tragedy! The Bosnian wars were an unpardonable failure of the UN and the international community but we don't read about it at all. Joe Sacco does brilliant work in bringing the war to us using amazing artwork and a compelling narrative style. This should be widely read.
Profile Image for Banu Yıldıran Genç.
Author 1 book671 followers
April 11, 2020
joe sacco'nun filistin'ini de aynı hislerle bitirmiştim. araya bir sürü iş güç girdi çok uzun sürdü gorazde'yi bitirmem ama bm'nin çöküşünü okumak, bosnalıları yapayalnız bıraktıklarını yine okumak hatırlamak çok acayipti.
bu kez hiç bilmediğimiz gorazde'yi anlatıyor sacco, gençlerini, sağlıkçılarını, öğretmenlerini, askerlerini, savaşın ve ölülerin içindeki kıstırılmışlığı.
ve çizimler yine muhteşem. hastanede onlarca yaralı olduğu kareler var, tek tek bakınca dehşeti de gerçeği de görüyorsunuz. o kadar detaylı.
Profile Image for Ikra Amesta.
135 reviews20 followers
May 3, 2021
Kejayaan Nazi memang sudah lama berlalu, namun filosofi fasis-nya masih terus diusung pada setiap perang dimanapun setelahnya. Tengoklah prahara di Gorazde. Sebuah daerah kantong di Bosnia Timur yang dikepung oleh pasukan separatis Serbia (Chetnik) sejak awal perang Bosnia. Sebagian dari populasinya adalah Muslim dan telah lama sebelumnya hidup berdampingan dengan orang-orang Serbia sampai akhirnya perang mengguratkan garis pemisah yang sangat jelas di antara keduanya.

Perang Bosnia adalah sebuah upaya genosida (pemusnahan suatu kaum atau etnis) yang disulut propaganda rasialis yang sempit. Di tahun 1992, Gorazde merekam kecanggungan sekaligus teror dalam perang saat sesama tetangga saling membunuh, menembaki, dan memburu. Di sini seorang bapak harus bersembunyi dari seorang tentara yang dulu sering mengerjakan PR bersama anak bungsunya. Sebuah rumah dibakar oleh teman sepermainan yang biasa bermain sepak bola bersama-sama. Orang-orang berlarian, menapaki genangan darah saudara sendiri, melihat mayat-mayat mereka mengambang di sungai di siang hari. Dari balik jendela di tengah malam, ada pemandangan ratusan orang yang dikumpulkan dan disembelih satu per satu lalu mayat mereka dilempar dari atas jembatan. Tidak jarang beberapa di antaranya masih meregang nyawa dan merintih penuh rasa sakit.

Bila baku-tembak sedang tidak terjadi, datanglah ke rumah sakit dan lihat bagaimana para dokter mengamputasi anggota badan seseorang tanpa obat bius. Di sana ada juga seorang anak kecil dengan lubang di perut menunggu giliran operasi. Tidak jarang mayat-mayat anak kecil dijejerkan dengan kondisi tubuh yang mengenaskan. Belum lagi para pasien wanita yang habis melahirkan ataupun yang keguguran, dengan kejinya diambil paksa lalu dilecehkan oleh tentara Chetnik. Dan yang paling heroik adalah perjalanan panjang warga menembus dinginnya malam yang sangat menusuk demi mendapatkan bahan-bahan makanan (selama perjalanan beberapa orang mati pelan-pelan dan bahkan sampai gila).

Mungkin dibutuhkan cita rasa seni yang baik, dan sedikit selera humor, untuk bisa menilai isi dari novel grafis ini secara obyektif. Isi ceritanya sendiri bukanlah suatu hal yang mengenakkan. Bahkan sepanjang saya membaca buku, setiap kali membuka halaman rasanya selalu diliputi teror akan apa saja yang bisa ditemui dalam kisah peperangan. Drama yang terkandung sarat dengan pesan kemanusiaan tentang makna dari luka dan kehilangan.

Namun untung saja perang itu telah selesai. Cerita hitam ini diakhiri dengan manis, lewat pengumuman damai di sela-sela video film “The Bodyguard” yang sedang ditonton. Saat-saat penting yang mengharukan: “Dalila dari Gorazde menari dengan Presiden Amerika Serikat di TV.” Sebuah klimaks dari penebusan panjang yang madunya takkan terasa bila sebelumnya kepahitan itu tidak pernah ada.

Dan sampai kapanpun, perang tetaplah perang, selalu sama, apapun alasannya, dimanapun tempatnya, kapanpun terjadinya. Selalu perih dan menyakitkan.
Profile Image for Paula Fialho Silva.
188 reviews100 followers
July 11, 2019
Não sabia muito acerca da guerra dos Balcãs e do que se tinha passado na Bósnia. Muito menos sabia o que se tinha passado no enclave de Gorazde.
Esta graphic novel fala das idas do jornalista/cartoonista Joe Sacco a Gorazde no final da guerra (fim de 1995 - princípio de 1996) e da história dessa mesma guerra.
Aprendi imenso com esta GN, adorei as ilustrações e, por isso, só lhe podia dar esta classificação.
Profile Image for Lúcia Fonseca.
216 reviews31 followers
October 1, 2019

Para mim esta GN valeu pelo contesto histórico em que está enquadrada. Além da divisão da Jugoslávia não sabia de mais nada.
As histórias aqui relatadas são fragmentos de várias personagens. Não há propriamente um testemunho que seja aprofundado. Tenho preferência por arte colorida, embora goste do traço de umas quantas BDs a preto. Mas não foi o caso desta.
Profile Image for Jeff.
516 reviews16 followers
November 11, 2011
Safe Area Gorazde is a stunning work, combining the best traits of journalism, comics, and historical non-fiction. What really makes this book exceptional is the fact that Joe Sacco has mastered all of the elements of his craft - the writing and the art hold up equally well despite the high standards that Sacco has evidently set for himself.[return][return]The tale told herein is alternately thrilling, horrifying, and redeeming, but manages to hit all of those high points without an excess of authorial intervention. Sacco lets the incredible story carry us along with little overt preaching or moralizing. This is not easy to do with material that relates such a powerful tale of the worst shortcomings of the human race.[return][return]I think that until I read Safe Area Gorazde, I didn't really grasp just what the hell had gone wrong in Bosnia in the early nineties. This book cleared a lot of things up for me, and did so with an incredibly compelling narrative and graphic style.
Profile Image for Christopher Roth.
Author 3 books34 followers
September 20, 2013
Not just one of the best things I've ever seen about the Yugoslav Wars of Succession, but one of the best arguments for non-fiction comics. Very powerful book. It gets deep into the inexplicable phenomenon of how Serbs turned on their Muslim neighbors almost overnight when war erupted in Bosnia. Puts a human face on the Bosnian war more than anything I've read.
Profile Image for molly.
43 reviews15 followers
April 20, 2016
To me, Sacco came off as kinda creepy but I did like that the majority of the book wasn't about his experiences or opinions (I didn't care for those parts). I appreciated that he presented the stories of a few of those who lived it.
Profile Image for A Man Called Ove.
915 reviews219 followers
April 18, 2018
3.5/5 First things first - Loved the neat, sharp drawings.
This was my first book on the Balkanisation of Yugoslavia and it focused on Gorazde - a part of Bosnia. The title is apt and ironical as Gorazde had been declared a "Safe Area" yet it was far from safe. The book explains the roots of the conflict and then details the events of the war and the mindset of the Bosnian Muslims and their experiences. It was moving it was a one-sided war and the author brought out the stories of the victims' suffering very well.
Wonder though if the story has another, Serbian side to it. Keen to read more.
Profile Image for Rahmadiyanti.
Author 13 books163 followers
January 5, 2018
"Kupikir, kalau bisa, aku membunuh tiga saja dari mereka sebelum aku mati. Aku tidak rela ditangkap.... Harapan kami satu-satunya adalah bantuan dunia. Kami sudah menunggu berbulan-bulan dan bertahun-tahun. Kami berharap PBB bisa menghentikannya... Tetapi, mereka tidak berbuat apa-apa." (Edin, penduduk Gorazde ~ halaman 172)

Mengingat Bosnia selalu ada nyeri di hati. Ya, saya tahu peristiwa ini telah berlalu, 20 tahun lalu. Saya juga hanya seorang pelajar SMA jelang kuliah yang kala itu menyimak tentang Bosnia dari koran dan majalah juga dari kakak pengajar bimbel, ribuan kilometer jaraknya dari negeri Balkan ini. Tapi 20 tahun bukan waktu yang lama. Kekejaman di luas batas kemanusiaan ini terjadi di masa modern. Di benua biru yang maju. Di sebuah negeri yang jaraknya hanya belasan jam dengan bus dari Muenchen, dari Wina, dari Milan, dari Zurich…. Kekejian itu terjadi karena obsesi manusia durjana, yang ingin sebuah negara hanya berisi ras-nya saja. Salah satu daerah yang menjadi ladang pembersihan adalah Gorazde.

Gorazde terletak sekitar 100 km dari Sarajevo, ibukota Bosnia Herzegovina. Kota kecil ini pada masa perang adalah safe area atau zona aman yang ditetapkan oleh PBB pada April 1993 selain Sarajevo, Zepa, Bihac, dan Tuzla. Kota-kota tersebut berada di bawah perlindungan unit pasukan perdamaian PBB, Unprofor. Tentang kota inilah Joe Sacco, kartunis dan jurnalis, berkisah melalui gambar.

Selama tiga setengah tahun Gorazde dikepung dan diserang Serbia. Warga Gorazde mengalami kengerian yang mungkin tak pernah mereka bayangkan. Tetangga sebelah rumah membunuh anggota keluarga mereka. Teman bermain bola membakar rumah mereka. Penjual daging yang mereka kenal menggorok leher tetangga mereka. Sementara para wanita diperkosa dan dianiaya. Bahkan mereka dicokok di rumah sakit hanya berselang setelah mereka melahirkan. Bagaimana dengan anak-anak? Tak terkecuali. Banyak dari mereka dibunuh dan dibuang ke sungai. Gorazde hancur. Sementara PBB tak berbuat apa-apa. Bahkan Jenderal Rose, puncak pimpinan militer PBB di Bosnia berdalih mereka harus netral dan berpendapat jumlah korban dan kondisi di Gorazde telah dilebih-lebihkan (!!!).

Penduduk Gorazde yang tersisa dengan keterbatasan yang ada berusaha mempertahankan kota mereka. Edin, Izet, Riki, Dr. Alija Begovic, adalah beberapa dari warga Gorazde di mana Sacco mendapat kisah. Kisah yang dituturkan Dr Alija misalnya, benar-benar bikin sesak. Ia dan petugas rumah sakit harus merawat dan melakukan operasi para korban dengan keterbatasan. Mengoperasi tanpa obat bius, mengamputasi dengan pisau dapur adalah sedikit dari kengerian yang terjadi di rumah sakit Gorazde. Dan kengerian-kengerian yang lain terus terjadi hingga para penduduk berpikir bahwa Gorazde akan musnah di hadapan dunia yang seakan berpangku tangan….

Membaca dan menyimak gambar demi gambar di buku ini benar-benar membuat dada saya sesak. Goresan Sacco yang detail dan kisah yang menyayat adalah perpaduan kesesakan itu. Saya seakan tak mau berpisah saat sampai pada lembar terakhir. Saya ingin tahu lebih dan lebih banyak lagi cerita mereka. Namun di satu sisi saya berharap jangan sampai kisah di Gorazde, kisah di Srebrenica, di Mostar, Sarajevo, terulang lagi.
Profile Image for Murat.
389 reviews
August 24, 2021
1992-1995 arası Doğu Bosna'daki (Birleşmiş Milletler'in seyirci kaldığı) katliamların, tecavüzlerin, yokluğun, sefaletin tanıkların gözünden aktarıldığı bu "çizgibelgesel"i okuduktan sonra bir "Drina" daha yakmaktan başka elden ne gelir? Belki de bunu düşünmek lazım.

Nitekim çok değil henüz 20-25 yıl önce yaşanan bu insanlık suçlarına uzak geçmişte kalmış ve bir daha yaşanmayacak korkunç olaylar dizisi gözüyle bakmanın hata olacağı kanaatindeyim ve Brexit ile beraber sallantıda olan AB nin kaderiyle yakından ilişkili olan Balkanlarda tarihin tekerrür edebileceği endişesini taşıyorum.

Bu noktada; Srebrenitsa'ya soykırım yapmak üzere adım atan Bosna Sırp Ordusu Başkomutanı Ratko Mladić'in ilk sözlerini ve bunun bizim vicdanlarımıza yükleyeceği sorumluluğu hatırlamakta fayda var; " Bu toprakta "Türkler"den intikam almamızın vakti geldi.."

Kitap, bu acı geçmişi yalnızca tarihe not düşmek için değil; hatırlamak ve tekrar tekrar hatırlamak için çok önemli ve değerli.

NOt: İthaki berbat bir basım yapmış, kitabın sayfalarının 1, bilemediniz 2 okumada dağılması garanti.
Profile Image for Ema.
638 reviews74 followers
August 10, 2019

É difícil para mim falar sobre esta BD de não ficção, porque reconheço a sua qualidade factual, embora política e estratégia de guerra não sejam o meu forte, nem algo que eu aprecie. Aprendemos bastante a nível da História de Gorazde, ao mesmo tempo que temos acesso às testemunhas dos civis e alguns soldados que viveram e/ou se refugiaram na cidade. Portanto, a classificação que dei prende-se com gostos pessoais e com a minha incapacidade de apreciar política esmiuçada. Por outro lado, é história contada de um ponto de vista apenas, a de Gorazde, mas ao longo da narrativa, percebemos o porquê de assim o ser: o autor/jornalista foi contratado para o fazer. Gostei bastante do traço, muito detalhado e intuitivo, e da forma como o autor distingue pelas ilustrações o presente e o passado. Só não entendi o porquê de o próprio se retratar caricaturado... A meu ver, ficou algo desfazado da intenção principal da BD. Um ponto negativo, e que também dificultou a minha leitura, é as caixas verticais com palavras exaustivamente cortadas a meio. Problemas à parte, recomendo a quem se interesse por guerra no geral, sobreviver no meio dela e conhecer o lado humano da mesma.
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,221 reviews2,164 followers
July 25, 2010
This is a book I would probably have never known about if it hadn't been for a little workshop I attended during my teaching degree. Which would have been a sad loss for me, because this is an excellent book, vivid and educational, emotional and honest, a book that brings a complex and confusing war into your lap, at the same time beautiful in its artistic skill, and heart-wrenching in the agony of its story.

Goražde (pronounced "go-RAJH-duh") is a town in Bosnia, which used to be part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia has a confusing history, but it essentially came into being after the Second World War. It was made up of Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia achieved independence in 1991 after their own battles, leaving Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro as a "rump" Yugoslavia. The population was made up of three distinct ethnic and religious groups: Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, all living together harmoniously until political leaders began stirring up discontent:

Little more than a decade after Tito's death in 1980, Yugoslavia began to come apart, and the driving figure in the break-up and the tragedies that followed was the man who would become Serbia's president, Slobodan Milosevic. He had exploited and encouraged Serb nationalism and sense of victimhood to consolidate his power in Serbia and extend his influence over Serbs living in the other republics. (p. 36)

A brutal era of ethnic cleansing ensued, and several different and equally vicious armies formed. The scary thing about this war is that there was no clear "good guy, bad guy" dichotomy. The Allies won WWII, and so Hitler is the "bad guy". Serbia comes across as the clear "bad guy" in this war, and yet all sides of the conflict were committing atrocities. This is the story of the town of Goražde, though, and it seems clear the people and refugees living there were victims. The Serbs and Muslims had lived together peacefully for a long time, until, with war brewing, it became dangerous to do so. The Serb population left as the Serbian army began annexing great chunks of Bosnia, and the Muslims who remained in this and other small towns in the area barely survived three years of bloody war.

The UN declared a few places "safe areas", but this story is also the story of UN failure to enforce peace and protect people - just as they failed in Rwanda. Every time genocide occurs, we say "never again". And then it happens again, and we shake our heads and Tsk while people in important positions make bad decisions or no decisions. And people begin to die, horrifically and needlessly.

This book is also Joe Sacco's personal account, as a journalist, of his trips to Goražde, the friends he made there, and the stories he recorded which make up the bulk of this book. He's a character in his own novel, so we get the contrasting Western perspective, but having the visuals brings home to the reader (so much more so than words ever could) not just what it was like, but how non-alien the Bosnian people are - these aren't people we can look at and not find familiar, like the Afghans (you know we do this, even if not consciously). They live like "we" do, they wear the same clothes, go to university, all that is familiar to us. If anything, it becomes all the more tragic for it. We can so easily distance ourselves from images of war in the Middle East or Africa, but seeing images of war in a place like Bosnia is like seeing war in Canada, or England, or France or America or Australia. These might not be rich countries, but it gives you a healthy jolt and reminder of what racial discrimination - and religious discrimination - can lead to if you let a few prominent people loudly draw lines between groups, separating people based on religious and racial lines, creating an "us vs. them" dichotomy.

Goražde was a town cut off and isolated from the rest of Bosnia, often attacked by Serb nationalists, but it survived. Many others did not, and the entire Muslim populations of towns were massacred. In Goražde, Sacco made friends with a university student, Edin, who had been very close to finishing his PhD before the war started and now taught maths, intermittently, to the students in Goražde. His proficiency in English made him an excellent guide and translator, but Sacco made friends with other men and women in the town, as well as with some of the refugees. The story has an unusual structure, one that seems chaotic and jumbled, moving back and forth in time, from place to place, with no apparent sense of order. It does make it hard to grasp the time frame or remember whereabouts you are, but it also helps break up the stories of atrocities with seeing how people are surviving in the "present".

The complexity of the book itself is further compounded by how terribly complex the situation of the Bosnian War itself was. It's hard to keep all the different groups straight in my head, though I think re-reading it would help.

One of the things that really impressed me were the drawings themselves, the graphics. It must have taken Sacco years: the level of detail in them is extraordinary. So, even though I found the structure of the book sometimes hard to follow, and the political situation can get confusing, Sacco still did a really good job at explaining things, giving stories context and perspective as well as a personal human element through the voices of the survivors.

Safe Area Goražde took me a month to read mostly because it's so much to take in, so tragic, so horrible to think of us all going about our lives while this was going on. I vaguely remember it from when I was a teen, but - and this is a failing of the education system, in my opinion - we never looked into it in any class. No teacher tried to explain what was going on, or incorporated it into their curriculum as a kind of case study. Which is a shame. But I've found that teachers are much better at that these days, and have seen English teachers, for example, use story boards (graphic novel interpretations) as ways for students to interpret books they've read, like A Thousand Splendid Suns. You could use this book in many ways in the school system, either just a page or two or the entire thing. It's graphic format makes it a highly accessible historical text.

The war in Bosnia has become a kind of "forgotten war", a genocide that has slipped from the public consciousness. How can we even think that it will not happen again, if we pretend it didn't happen in Bosnia in the 1990s? Shame on us.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,716 reviews2,311 followers
August 23, 2021
▪️Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 by Joe Sacco, 2001

#ReadtheWorld21 📍Bosnia

My second book by Joe Sacco, the renowned war reporter and graphic reportage pioneer. I read his seminal work, PALESTINE, last year, and while I recognized the importance of what Sacco was doing, his jocularity and side jokes sometimes "rubbed me the wrong way" in that one.
Thankfully, there is little of the blasé attitude in SAFE AREA, and Sacco purposefully removes his own story from the stories of his interviewees.

The graphic bio shares the stories of a number of Bosniaks that live in the small town Goražde, which has been labeled as a "Safe Area" by the United Nations and completely surrounded by Serbian nationalist militias who have committed atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide in eastern Bosnia. Goražde is quickly becoming cut off from all food and medical supplies, while receiving countless refugees from other villages that have been destroyed.

Sacco's key character is a young Bosniak teacher named Edin who is one semester away from finishing his degree at university in Sarajevo. He introduces Sacco to a large network of people and through the book, we hear their stories of survival and what they have seen and experienced.

A harrowing read, but I've come away with a much greater understanding (but of course, so much more to learn) about the Bosnian Wars and the specific geography and political process. Oral history in graphic form.

CW: Extremely graphic violence and abuse - very disturbing even in "cartoon" style. This book describes and often portrays the violence unflinchingly.

📚 Some other war/conflict graphic reportage that I recommend:

▪️The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert Didier Lefèvre, and Fredric Lemercier, tr. Alexis Siegel
▪️Other Russias by Victoria Lomasko, tr. Thomas Campbell
▪️Hostage by Guy Delisle, tr. Brigitte Findakly
Profile Image for Shankar.
158 reviews3 followers
September 10, 2021
Blood and gore depicted in black and white graphic detail over 200 pages in a graphic novel. Takes a lot of mental stamina to stay engaged while reading this. Each page is more of advancing Serbian troops and more corpses and death.

It’s a testimony to why Joe Sacco chose this subject and method to deliver. In a way it is more impactful than possibly a normal novel would have been. It’s a shame that such things are committed in the name of political and military objectives.

An excellent novel. Recommended
Profile Image for Leah.
539 reviews2 followers
February 11, 2023
the UN ain't shit! reporting and interviews with muslims about their experience during bosnian war. gives context for how fascism was “indulged” in the lead-up to the war in a really interesting way. cities and territory were traded around by governments without any regard for what would happen to the people who lived there.
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,720 reviews119 followers
March 19, 2014
Safe Area Gorazde is probably the most powerful book I have read in a really long time. It's moving and horrifying, and the thought that all of this happened just twenty years ago is downright insane.

In the mid 1990s, I was a teen living in northern Virginia, worried mostly about my friends, my grades, getting into the right college. My father had always insisted that I watch the nightly news (with Peter Jennings, and I cried so much when he died a few years ago), so the events of the war in Bosnia weren't wholly unfamiliar to me. But I didn't pay much attention, as spoiled of a first world teen that I was.

But now I am aware of the atrocities committed in the Bosnian war. It's interesting that the Muslims who had been cleansed from most of eastern Bosnia seemed to be able to make a distinction between the Serbs that had been their neighbors, and the nationalistic Serbs who committed the worst atrocities. They still didn't want to live near any Serbs, feeling that they could no longer be trusted.

It is truly mind-boggling how much death, destruction, rapes, murders, starvation, etc, occurred in Bosnia in the mid 1990s. And it's even more mind-boggling that it seemed like the international community could do very little about it. Had the UN gotten involved with real results a lot earlier, many Muslims and Serbs could have been spared.

The artwork in this account is absolutely staggering. So much detail. So much preciseness in each frame. There were several frames I couldn't look at too closely, for fear of having nightmares, but that shows how powerful Sacco's artwork is. I could only read this in chunks, not in one fell swoop, because of this. As terrible as the subject matter is, I think Sacco's art is my favorite of all the graphic novels I have read thus far.

I believe this book should be mandatory reading for every high school history class. It is imperative that we teach our youth what happened in Bosnia so that when they are our future leaders, they can remember what dragging one's feet caused in Bosnia, and hopefully never repeat the same mistake.
Profile Image for Robert Gustavo.
98 reviews18 followers
December 31, 2017
I think it’s about time to acknowledge that I’m just not going to get back to this, and declare it done.

It’s not that the subject matter is horrifying — it is horrifying, by the way — but it just didn’t draw me in and make me want to finish it. I’ve read all sorts of books on the Bosnian genocide, so I might be missing the shock value of the book, and I just didn’t find the characters compelling.

I’m sure the actual people living through this had compelling stories to tell, but Sacco didn’t capture them in a way that they stayed compelling in the comic book. I think he was often trying for fatalism and perseverance, and it’s not easy to show in a graphic novel. And it doesn’t have any images that have really stuck with me.

This is one of those books that takes on a weighty subject in a traditionally lighter format, and I think it gets a lot more praise than it deserves because of this (“it’s such a serious comic book! It shows that comic books can be serious!”). It’s competently done, at least the first half or so, and I think I might have enjoyed it more when I was younger or knew less about the genocide.

I would recommend “Love Thy Neighbor,” “My War Gone By, I Miss It So” or “Endgame” over this.

I want to like this book more than I actually do.
Profile Image for Ronja.
242 reviews30 followers
May 5, 2018
What are some people capable of doing…it’s just unbelievable. War in Bosnia was literally like your friends stabbing you in the back only because of some nationalistic shit.

Anyway, I really did like Sacco’s style. His drawings are pretty realistic, reading this comics took me way too longer than some other pieces of sequential art. It just demanded more of my attention to absorb its whole message. Only thing I missed there was view from the other side, what have Serbs to say about all they have done to people of Gorazde (and other parts of Bosnia). But still, really incisive account of some quite recent history.
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