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Posts Tagged ‘Beirut Hay Festival

 Syria has been hung, drawn and quartered: The Crossing

As she sits at a cafe table in the 7th arrondissement (Paris) – elegant and intense, waving around a Gitane cigarette for emphasis – it’s hard to imagine a more Parisian figure than the writer Samar Yazbek.

Except that she is speaking to me mostly in her native Syrian Arabic (we use an interpreter). And for all her wit and charm, the stories she is telling me are horrifying.

Over the past few years, Yazbek has been an eyewitness to the unfolding chaos and misery in Syria and she can’t stop telling me about it – sentences tumble over one another and my questions are constantly interrupted by her flow.

The drama of the situation is heightened by the fact that our conversation is taking place less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Syrian embassy in the rue Vaneau.

Yazbek was born in 1970 in Jableh, a small coastal town. She also lived in Latakia and Raqqa, now the headquarters of Isis.

When Yazbek was growing up these were gentle and tolerant places. Although provincial, her early years were far from parochial – she recalls her rebellious adolescence reading Virginia Woolf and wishing she was Mrs Dalloway. Such literary precociousness is hardly surprising, given her family background.

Samar was born into an Alawite family, both cosmopolitan and privileged. The Alawites are the small but powerful minority sect that has effectively been the ruling class in Syria since the time of French rule, which finished in 1943.

(The French mandated power over Syria and Lebanon relied on the policy of divide to rule, as most colonial powers, and encouraged minorities to support its dominion. The Alawite didn’t fully cooperate with the French occupation)

The Assads are also Alawite, which means that Yazbek’s revolt against the government is also seen by her enemies as a double betrayal of her religion and class.

For the past few years, I have cycled past this place almost every day on the way to my office, noting the anti-Assad graffiti and the occasional obliteration of the official signage, depending on the Assad regime’s fortunes in the war. The only constant has been the unmarked cars with blacked-out windows that stand guard.

Today the signs are back, declaring that this is the Embassy of the Syrian Republic. As we sit and chat, Yazbek is all too well aware that these are people who would kill her if they could.

This is mainly because of her long-standing opposition to the Assad government before the uprising of 2011 and her activism during what she still calls, with shining eyes, the “Revolution”.

Now she is even more of a target with the publication of her latest book, The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria. This is an account of what happened when Yazbek returned to Syria, making an illegal crossing from Turkey in 2012.

This was the beginning of several visits – each more dangerous. Yazbek was not only wanted by the Assad regime, but as she travelled through what had once been her native land she became a suspicious character in the eyes of the jumbled-up brigades of rebel factions.

I begin by asking why she put herself in such danger. She looks puzzled.

“I was not frightened for myself. Not at all. Why should I be so? This was my homeland. This is where I had grown up. I spoke the languages, I knew the people. What did frighten me as time went on, and as I made more trips, was the way everything I had once known in Syria was being turned into something else, something I didn’t quite recognise. This had once been a cosy place, a place of traditional loyalties and hospitality. But now the people have been scarred and mutilated. I don’t know whether it will ever go back to what it was. That is what Assad has done.”

One of the problems she faced as she journeyed through Syria was to disguise her origins when confronted by non-Alawites – the Alawites are not only considered as pro-Assad but also as Shia infidels by Sunnis. She learned to shift her accent around whenever she became the object of suspicion: “I am from everywhere,” she said to one surly fighter who questioned her background.

“But this is true,” she said to me. “Above all, I am Syrian and it is only now that the war has deepened these sectarian divisions that were never there in this way when I was a girl. I can still remember when Syria was a true country of the Levant, as was Lebanon, with all religions and groups part of what it means to be Syrian.

Now it is as if you can only be Syrian if you are Sunni or Shia or whatever. From the outside, the Syrian war looks like a battle between dictators and people in revolt – which it is – but from the inside it is like a family conflict, with all the bitter hatreds that you can imagine that come to the surface.”

She reserves special contempt for Isis, whom she describes as an occupying army of foreigners, and then corrects herself and says they are more like a group of thugs and bullies.

In The Crossing, she notes with anger the Yemeni, Saudi, Somali and Chechen faces that man the Isis checkpoints, harass Syrians and have turned a place such as Raqqa into a hellhole. “I can remember how it was,” she says, “and now it is something dehumanising, disgusting. You have a generation that is being lost to this cruelty.”

She is especially angry with young Muslim women who have travelled from the west to join Isis.

“Of course I am a feminist,” she says, “and what they are doing is sending the condition of women in Syria back to some terrible place. But also what they are doing is to ‘Orientalise’ Syria – these young girls are Muslims but they are creatures of the west. They know nothing of Syria and its ways. But they love the fantasy of the virile Arab warrior on a horse with a gun.

This is a cliche and a fantasy and they come because it’s erotic and exotic – they are bored in the west and they need to rebel. But they do not understand Islam or Syria and that they are making things worse for the women who live here.”

One of the most gripping sections of the book is a conversation between Yazbek and the “Hajii’’, a commander of the Ahrar Latakia (Free Men of Latakia) battalion who had spent his life on the move, living between the Turkish-Syrian border and Syria’s coastal strip.

Yazbek and the Hajii are from the same part of world but now they couldn’t be further apart. Depressingly, the Hajii says the conflict in Syria is now a religious war that will last decades and where genocide is a necessary weapon of war. “Are you a murderer?” she asks him. “Yes,” he replies unhesitatingly, this son of a taxi driver. And he will commit more murders. “I won’t kill you,” he says. He tells her to stay away from this “vile war” and he pities the future for all Alawites in Syria.

There are other grim stories.

Yazbek tells of a young man who refuses to rape a girl on the orders of his senior officer. His genitals are shot off as a military punishment. Everywhere Yazbek goes she meets ordinary people whose everyday sense of morality is similarly undone by random but regular encounters with horror. One of the most devastating aspects of the book is that she is constantly aware that, not too long ago, this was a country where people lived ordinary lives.

Her technique is to let people tell the stories themselves, and to this extent the book recalls Anna Funder’s Stasiland, an account of how a country can go mad under the burden of lies and the promise of violence. In Syria right now, however, the violence is not just a threat but an ever-present reality.

Yazbek makes the point that this is only partly about geopolitics – from Isis to US foreign policy, Syria is being used as a laboratory for experiments in how to destroy a nation. On the ground, as she explains in The Crossing, the result is to break human beings, literally and metaphorically, into pieces: “Syria will never be the same again,” she writes in the epilogue. “It has been hung, drawn and quartered.”

The Crossing is not simply reportage or political analysis. It bears comparison with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia as a work of literature. Yazbek is a superb narrator who knows how to pace her text, craft dialogue and convey a universal sense of grief; this is how she crosses the line from journalism to high literary art.

When I put this to her she blushes and lights another Gitane. But she is not falsely modest. “Certainly I wanted to write literature. For one thing, so much is written about Syria that it is easy to be bored with war stories, but I think as well that only literature can convey the complexity of what is happening there.”

I mention Orwell and Kafka. She admires both but Kafka in particular is a model. “What is happening in Syria is like being trapped down a deep, dark tunnel where you can see no way out. I had hope in 2011 – I believed that we could change ourselves and our lives – and now every time I have been back it has got worse and so quickly. But with massacres every day, on all sides, what can you expect? It’s not politics, it’s not religion – it’s something worse – pure hatred.”

Yazbek has written novels and poetry and was a TV presenter in pre-revolutionary Syria.

In 2010, she was included in the Beirut 39, a group of the best writers in the Arab world under 40 chosen by the Beirut Hay festival.

In 2012, she shared the Pen Pinter prize, with poet Carol Ann Duffy, for her book A Woman in the Crossfire about the early days of the Syrian civil war.

The Crossing is a different kind of book, however – it marks a sea change in Yazbek’s thought. “I want to believe still in hope,” she says, “but now I wonder if I really do believe in it.

I have seen such destruction that it’s hard to believe that anything good can come out of it.

I feel like I have been dropped from a cloud into a deep abyss. My idea has always been that a writer has to write about change, has to be part of change.

That is why I went back to Syria two years ago – it was an obsession. Now I have another obsession – that murder is happening in my country and I can do nothing about it.”

Yazbek is now truly in exile in Paris and she finds it painful. If she ever goes back to Syria, it will be more dangerous than ever before and she is reluctant to chance her arm more than she has to. For this reason, she misses Syria more than ever.

“When I was young, I dreamed of travelling the world. I thought that where I came from was small-town, and I wanted to be glamorous, cosmopolitan and intellectual. I dreamed of Paris for example. But now that I am here, it is beautiful but it is not the same thing. I am in Paris but all the time think of Jableh, Latakia and all those other places.

“I did not choose to be an exile – that is the difference. I did not come here to be an artist but because I was thrown out. That’s something that wounds you. It’s very hard.”

She is now 45 and feels that she has a different perspective on her writing and the terrible landscape that she covers.

“I never meant to write this kind of book or be this kind of writer. But now I can’t get away from it.”

Although it is probably not be what she intended, it may be that Samar Yazbek has written one of the first political classics of the 21st century.

The Crossing, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Nashwa Gowanlock, is published on 2 July by Rider (£20).

Click here to order a copy for £16. Samar Yazbek will be reading from The Crossing on Saturday 25 July at the British Library, London, and taking part in a discussion about freedom of expression in the Middle East, Speaking Truth to Power, at the Free Word Centre, London, on Thursday 23 July.

Andrew Bossone shared this link ‎Hay Festival Beirut
From exile in Paris, Samar Yazbek has written a powerful and moving account of her devastated homeland.
Here, she tells how she risked her life to cross illegally…

Meet Joe Sacco: Comic books, journalism, and the objective ideal

Joe Sacco was best-known for his early comic, Palestine. It is an illustrated book about his experiences in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sacco’s works have also covered situations in Bosnia, Iraq, India, The Hague, the United States, Africa migrants and horrible immigration journeys….

Sacco’s pencils portray come down on the side of the oppressed and the powerless.

Ellie  Violet Bramley posted on May 11, 2013 “When NOW met Joe Sacco”

Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco

An extended piece based on NOW’s interviews with cartoonist Joe Sacco, who was in town this week as part of the Beirut chapter of the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts.

Questions of the aptness of the medium of the comic book as a vehicle for stories with serious subjects and messages are not new. It’s not something Sacco himself ever mulled over in the beginning: “I only approach it theoretically cause people like you ask me the question,” he says without reproach. “The way I approached comic book was: I love comics, but I had a serious streak and I studied journalism. I was interested in what was going on in the world so putting those two things together was organic without really being thought out.”

Organically conceived, a new sub-genre was born: a kind of journalistic cartoon (one could perhaps look to things such as Punch, the satirical cartoons of Victorian England, for a predecessor of sorts) – aesthetically mesmerizing, emotionally grueling, but daubed with the brush of entertainment, making the gruel more palatable.

Sacco is comfortable with the word ‘entertainment’ for what others before have labeled ‘humor’: “if you want to be artistic you’ve got to realize that a lot of your readings aren’t approaching your subject in the same way as you see it. There’s an entertainment factor in comics that I like, and I’m okay with the word entertainment, ultimately you want people to keep turning the page, that’s part of the art. If you show things as bleakly as they are over and over again without getting into the human side of things, who wants to read that?”

As with any method of reportage or storytelling it has its definite strengths: “what they can do is right away bring a person, bring the reader into a situation. They open up the book and there are images of a refugee camp.”

Anyone who has read any of Sacco’s work will know that the lines, drawing refugees camps, drawing the weary faces of West Virginia miners, drawing the cold metal of the Israeli bulldozers in Rafah, or drawing the welts of Russian torture on the back of a Chechen man, form a mesh; a net for the attention of the reader.

This ensnaring is ideal for what Sacco wants to achieve: “what you are trying to do is get the reader to walk in the same streets as you,” and by extension walk with refugee communities in the winding alleys between tents, or with the people whose lives are so pervaded with poverty that they have given up fighting it, along the pot-holed roads of New Jersey.

Could comics perhaps be an antidote to the sadly inevitable fatigue of readers, daily confronted with foreign deaths and despair, and a way to reel readers back into the realm of empathy and shock?

Sacco doesn’t blame people for their fatigue: “cause it’s very unpleasant to think people are being killed over there and after a while you go from shock to oh well that’s just the situation, what can I do.”

Besides: “people have their own lives. Even in the best places in the West, the most wealthy places, people have their own problems. I think it’s hard for people to engage in any case and for good reason – people just want to live their lives. I’m sure people in Gaza want to live their lives and people in Damascus want to live their lives and Aleppo, they’d rather just live their lives. The best journalism can do is probably makes us feel like we’re all sort of on the same planet and things are connected, more so now it seems, and our nations are engaged in certain things, even indirectly, so we have to be aware what is going to be done in our name or what might be done in our name. So if you feel like you belong to a society you need to know that your society presses on other societies.”

Perhaps the western media’s commitment to worshiping at the altar of objectivity is partly to blame for this fatigue, and Sacco’s comics, with their visual and humanizing tendencies can remedy what could be seen as an empathy gap. “Perhaps. Perhaps.”

Objectivity is often debated in relation to his work. In the preface to Journalism for instance, Sacco questions: “how should we respond…when they [naysayers] question the notion that drawings can aspire to objective truth? Isn’t that – objective truth – what journalism is all about? Aren’t drawings by their very nature subjective?

Perhaps this is why Sacco is reluctant to call his work reporting. Indeed, he is also reluctant to buy into the dignified moniker, “graphic novel,” that many people lend to it; he himself sees himself as a cartoonist – he has no problem with the “under the blanket with a flashlight” connotations of that, but recognizes many do. B

y placing himself physically into much of his own work – at first as a bumbling presence in Palestine and later as the slightly more “seasoned” presence in Footnotes – Sacco is conceding subjectivity whilst claiming a refreshing kind of honesty (“I think the best a journalist can do is be honest. You can report things from a Palestinian perspective, but show exactly what you’re seeing, which doesn’t always reflect well on the Palestinians, for example, but you have to be honest.”).

At odds with the American “’you’re just a fly on the wall, so unobtrusive;” style, his is an admission that no journalist is unobtrusive and that by revealing the presence you can allow the reader to take the perspective and transformative presence of the journalist into account, making a more informed decision for themselves. Sacco puts it brilliantly: “drawing myself in it makes it clear this is from a reporter’s perspective, it’s not ‘I am the omniscient journalism deity that hovers and knows all and sees all and understand things.’”

Sacco is skeptical to the notion of objectivity. It was in fact the realization that the so-called objective reporting of the American media had given him a starkly skewed view of the Israeli-Palestinian situation that led him to the Middle East, and to writing Palestine.

His frankness on the subject is illuminating: “without paying any attention to what was going on in the Middle East, just what I was hearing in the newspapers and all that, I used to think of Palestinians as terrorists. Why was that? Because every ‘objective’ report that I was seeing was about a bus bombing or a hijacking and Palestinians and Palestinians.

Any time the word Palestinians ever came up in the media, it was in relation to an attack on the Israelis… objectively, those were attacks; objectively those things happened, but there was no context at all, so just getting the objective facts I had a very, very skewed idea of what was going on.” (Interestingly, it was the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 that made him think there was much more to it that he wanted to unearth.)

Just as a photographer can take a subjective image – a Palestinian militant wielding a rocket launcher trained on Israel, for example – so too can a writer, even in a factual report, use rhetoric that is biased – all language is loaded, and so objectivity is an illusive master. A writer can easily depict a single incidence without contextualizing it.

An account of an incident unleashed from its historical chains, even if reported strictly factually, is not a full account. This is one of the issues Sacco takes up with the notion of objective reporting: “journalism often doesn’t allow for that [the context or the history], it’s just the facts and anything other than that doesn’t matter.

What happened 20 years ago, 30 years ago doesn’t matter; but it does matter, those absolutely matter and you can objectively report about one incident and then leave out the next ten.”

For Sacco, history is vital, and when the dominant power structures mobilize the rhetoric of moving on, it is because they have things it suits them to sweep under the rug.

He gives the example of the Obama administration constantly encouraging people to look forward as a way to avoid looking at the torture that the US has committed in recent times in the name of the War on Terror. But, “if you never look backward, forward is also going to look like backward,” says Sacco.

One of the strengths of cartoons is that histories – personal or national – can be probed as easily as a pen dips into an inkwell.

As Sacco describes it: “if you’ve done enough research about what the past looked like, what people were wearing, you can switch behind the past and the present in quite a fluid way.”

It is this re-engaging with the past that reminds readers in the west, used to feasting on the limited lines of news reports, about their own involvement in the seemingly distant suffering of people around the world – not only that their countries are pressing on others, but have pressed and that is why we are where we are. Where older Palestinians feel the UK has a lot to answer for, for instance, many Britons would look blank at the mention of the Balfour Declaration.

Comics find more strength in numbers – the repetition of certain images. Sacco met journalist Chris Hedges during his time in Bosnia, where the two struck up a friendship that led to a collaboration on the book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. The project chronicles life in the United States’ most desolate spots, ‘sacrifice zones’ – described by the cartoonist as just like post-war Bosnia “but without the minarets” – where human beings and natural resources have been used and then abandoned. Hedges talks with insight over a montage of Sacco’s images from the book here, discussing how a writer can only, for instance, describe the mud and rain pervading a scene once, where a cartoonist can depict it in multiple frames, allowing the damp to seep into the reader’s consciousness through a subtle process of osmosis.

For Sacco, this is invaluable for “building up an atmosphere…without hitting them over the head with it.” Turn at random to any page of Sacco’s gargantuan Footnotes in Gaza for instance – the book he is perhaps most proud of for both its sheer scale (it took him seven years all in) and originality of research – and you cannot fail to be swept into the illustrated scenes.

Until Days of Destruction, all of Sacco’s work had focused on problems outside the country he was living in. But for him, behavioral patterns are the same the world over: “dominant power and economic structures work in the Middle East, and dominant power and economic interests work in your own backyard.”

An interesting difference is that whilst the Palestinians Sacco depicts would likely identify themselves as oppressed, many of the Americans in the areas Sacco deals with, such as Camden New Jersey and West Virginia, would not identify themselves as such: “they’re probably so used to being fed this American exceptionalism that they probably think of themselves as failures in the system rather than that the system itself is doing them a great disservice.”

Perhaps a little fatigued from seeing the same structures impacting in the same subordinating ways on “those run over by history,” Sacco is turning his attention to human psychology. Having seen such hardship he now wants to try and get to the murky bottom of “why humans do what they do,” and so he is looking to first civilizations, Mesopotamia, archaeologists and anthropologists for answers.

This befits Sacco’s persistent focus on humanity, whilst forcing a break with his past style of working which relies on getting “as close to your subject as possible.”

For Sacco: “you can talk to all the politicians and all the generals” and you find yourself listening to “spin spin spin.” To produce good work, he believes that you must delve deeper than this. By looking to earlier civilizations, perhaps Sacco will be able to excavate further still.

Beirut Hay Festival starts today…May 8, 2013

Coup d’envoi ce soir du Hay Festival

Andrew Bossones is one of the organizers of this cultural event. Intellectuals, artists and thinkers will debate for 3 days on varied subjects, such as literature, illustrated works, economic development, human rights…

 Zico House hosts conferences in English such as “The struggle of women in a post-patriarchal context in the Arab World”, “Freedom of expression and censorship”… Joe Sacco, the American reporter will open the Festival. (I have reviewed one of his illustrated stories about the horror journey of African immigrants fleeing the atrocities of their States and having to cross the desert of Libya to reach the island of Malta…)

Al-Madina theater will host Hanan al-Shaykh (I reviewed a few of her books), Nidal Achkar and Hanif Kuireshi.

The Baroness Helena Kennedy will debate on « La liberté d’expression : un droit universel ? » before meeting with the journalist Hani Chucrallah.
Patrick Deville, Femina Prize 2012, Cherif Majdalani and Farès Sassine will speak at the French Institute of Beirut.
Venetia  Rainey, from the Daily Star, published this piece on Joe Sacco, first speaker in the Hay Festival:

Joe Sacco  is in no mood to mess around. “I can’t  pretend I am ‘objective’ about certain topics,” he says.

“In some situations there is such a thing as the oppressor and the oppressed,  and my goal is to give the oppressed a voice.”

The vaunted Maltese-American graphic novelist is well known for his  unwillingness to kowtow to conventional notions of journalistic objectivity:  presenting two, equally apportioned sides to every story.

“The problem with journalism  is that it is often a mere recording  of events from day to day,’” he explains. “A newspaper story might be factually accurate without giving the reader a sense of the ‘why.’”

It is Sacco’s pursuit of this sense of “why” – his scrutiny of the big and  small facets of history to find another way to understand and explain the  world’s daily tragedies – that drives his work and gives it its potency.

He is making his maiden voyage to Beirut  this week, among the cluster of writers and literary personalities to participate in Hay Festival Beirut. One of the  international franchises of the U.K.’s renowned literary festival in Hay-on-Wye,  the event was launched here in 2012, and provided a rare platform for the  mingling Lebanese and international writers.

Sacco was born in 1960 in Malta. His parents – an engineer and a teacher –  emigrated when he was very young to escape the influence of Roman Catholicism, a  theme he has explored in numerous works since.

He spent his childhood in Australia, where, surrounded by European immigrants  who regularly talked about war, he grew up thinking of conflict as a part of  life.

At the age of 12 his family moved the United States, where he studied  journalism at the University of Oregon. There he worked a series of jobs that  included co-founding the satirical comic magazine “Centrifugal  Bumble-Puppy.”

He was intrigued by the media’s portrayal of the Middle East and eventually  his travels found him in occupied Jerusalem.

“The only time I heard the word ‘Palestinian,’” he recalls, “was in relation  to incidents like terrorist attacks and hijackings. As a result, I grew up  thinking Palestinians were terrorists – pure and simple. I had to educate myself  about the Palestinian issue.”

At first, Sacco was nervous about venturing into the West Bank and  embarrassed to tell people he was writing a comic book (of all things) about the  Occupied Territories during the First Intifada.

Yet, after two months his notebooks were bulging, and “Palestine” was  published in nine issues between 1993 and 1995. Perhaps surprisingly for those  who have come to know his work more recently, his first solo venture was not a  commercial success.

His breakthrough came in 2000 with the release of “Safe Area  Gorade: The War in Eastern Bosnia  1992-1995,” which won an Eisner Award  for best original graphic novel –  though recognized as a graphic novelist, Sacco himself prefers the less inflated  term “comic book.”

“Palestine” was later republished more successfully in a single volume of 288  pages. He’s since released several other books and collections of earlier  pieces, which focused largely on Bosnia and the Palestinian territories.

Footnotes in Gaza” (2009), one of his best-known works, delves into two mass  killings in 1956, which had been consigned to the bin of history – one in Khan  Younis, and one in Rafah. “Footnotes” is now being adapted into a feature-length  animated film, to be directed by Denis Villneuve  – who helmed the 2010 screen  version of Wajdi Mouawad’s stage play “Incendies.”

“I’m somewhat ambivalent about turning ‘Footnotes in Gaza’ into a movie,” he  says.

“I don’t think that film is any more or less valid a medium than comic books.  But the story is about the massacre of Palestinians in 1956, and that’s a story  that should be heard by a wider audience than I’ve reached with the book.”

Sacco wants nothing to do with the new project.

“I decided to be hands off,” he continues. “For one thing, I don’t want to  interfere with someone else artistic vision, and for another, I spent seven  years on the book and it was really time for me to move on to other  subjects.”

It will be interesting to see how successfully Sacco’s engaging mix of  memoir, reportage and history, conveyed through close-ups, talking heads and  double-page panoramas can be transferred to celluloid.

Adult comic books can lend themselves to exaggeration,  and Sacco’s  figures are solidly drawn and plain-speaking. “I do think a journalist should be  honest,” he explains, “recording exactly what he or she is seeing and  hearing.”

Each detailed frame, which readers can pore over at their own pace, gives  each person’s stories a rich context that is impossible to relay in an article  or a minute-long TV report.

For Sacco, there is a difference between how journalists and artists operate,  a distinction he upholds in his work. “You have to be a little cold-hearted to  get the story accurately,” he explains. “Whatever you might be hearing, you have  to keep people on track. It’s a bit clinical. You can’t let yourself get  emotionally caught up.

“For me, the emotion comes later when I’m drawing. When you’re drawing  someone, you internalize that person somehow. You have to channel their feelings  into the drawing.

“Journalism is about switching something off; art is about switching  something on.”

Although he never studied art – and still doesn’t think drawing is his strong  point – he continues to hand-draw everything, working from photos and sketches  he makes while in the field.

It’s a painstaking process, so he is picky about which projects he takes  on.

“I have to ask myself whether I will still be 100 percent engaged in the  project three or four or five years down the road when I’m still drawing it,” he  says. “I cannot work on a story I am not emotionally committed to.

“So I only tackle projects that kick me in the gut.”

As gut-kicking material is a core criteria for starting a project, Sacco  concedes Lebanon’s stories may tempt him to pick up his pencil again.

Lebanon  is a complicated place and I can think of  any number of stories that might sustain my interest,” he says.

“This is my first visit. Sometimes you don’t know what story would interest  you until you’re there.”

Joe Sacco will be speaking at the Beirut Hay Festival on May 8-9. For more  information visit His latest book, “Journalism,” is  available from select bookshops.

A moment from “Footnotes in Gaza.”

A  version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May  08, 2013, on page 16.
Read more: (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::
Note 1: Pour plus d’informations, le programme entier est disponible en anglais et en français sur le site

Note 2: Coup d’envoi ce soir du Hay Festival

Published in the Lebanese French daily, L’Orient/Le Jour this May 8, 2013: Coup d’envoi ce soir du Hay Festival

Initiative Intellectuels, artistes et penseurs débattront pendant trois jours sur des sujets variés aux quatre coins de Beyrouth dans le cadre du Hay Festival.

Partout dans le monde, et cela depuis plus de 25 ans, le Hay Festival met à l’honneur la diversité culturelle et l’échange intellectuel en invitant écrivains, penseurs, historiens et artistes à se réunir, partager et débattre sur le monde tel qu’il est et tel qu’il pourrait être.
À partir de ce soir et jusqu’au 10 mai, la capitale libanaise accueille le festival pour la deuxième année consécutive. Cette fois, les invités discuteront principalement de la littérature et des ouvrages illustrés, du développement économique ainsi que des problèmes auxquels font face les droits de l’homme. Prévu sur trois jours seulement, le programme est chargé.

Quelques temps forts Zico House accueillera des conférences en anglais sur des sujets tels que « Les combats des femmes dans un contexte arabe postautoritaire », « La liberté d’expression et la censure », ou « Les contes graphiques ». Sur ce dernier thème, Joe Sacco, le reporter américain célèbre pour ses reportages en croquis et bandes dessinées sur des terrains difficiles tels que la Palestine et plus récemment Gaza, sera présent au Beyrouth Art Center ce soir, à 18h, et demain, à 15h, à l’auditorium du Hostle Student Center de l’AUB.

Au théâtre al-Madina ce soir, à 20h 30, Hanan al-Shaykh, une des auteures les plus lues et traduites du Moyen-Orient, rencontrera l’actrice et réalisatrice Nidal Achkar autour des poétiques et séduisants récits de Shéhérazade. Les mystérieux contes des Mille et Une Nuits seront lus en arabe et sous-titrés en anglais. Demain 9 mai, à partir de 19h30, le 392RMEIL393 recevra Hanif Kuireshi.

Classé parmi les cinquante meilleurs écrivains britanniques en 2008, ce dernier a vu nombre de ses ouvrages adaptés au cinéma. Il conversera avec l’écrivain journaliste Rosie Boycott.




November 2022

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