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The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo Hardcover – December 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Intrepid reporter and comics artist Sacco returns to Bosnia and Sarajevo to chronicle Neven, a "fixer" who leads Western reporters to stories, dispensing information and literally guiding them through the fascinating, dangerous landscape of post-war Sarajevo and Bosnia. Neven worked for Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde) when he wrote his previous book about the Bosnian war. Initially suspicious of him, Sacco gradually realized Neven's own story-a microcosm of the Balkan conflict itself-may be the most compelling story of all. A native Sarajevan, Neven watched as rebel Serb nationalists armed themselves against an unarmed multi-ethnic Sarajevo and Bosnian Republic. Neven eventually fought to defend Sarajevo as his city was torn apart. He joined criminal gangs, thieves and borderline sociopaths-warlords who often defied the government-who ultimately took up the call to defend the Bosnian Republic. Wounded in combat, Neven became a fixer but was intimately involved-as a legitimate soldier, guerilla irregular and victimized citizen-in every aspect of the bloody conflict. He's really selling Sacco his own story ("Can you imagine the sort of movie that could be made about bastards like me?"), and Sacco marvelously weaves in his own feelings of uneasiness and awe at his guide's grim life story. The tightly wound, humane and suspenseful nonfiction graphic novella employs visual devices-e.g., the haunted, unreliable protagonist, obscured by shadow and cigarette smoke-from the best traditions of film noir. Sacco's finely wrought, expressively rendered b&w drawings perfectly capture the emotional character of Sarajevo and the people who struggle to live there. This superlative and important story is easily one of the best comics nonfiction works of the year.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Sacco's second graphic novel set in Bosnia and Sarajevo follows the author's real-life relationship with Neven, a "fixer"-one who, for cash, leads foreign journalists through the fragmented postwar landscape and sniffs out the grittiest "underground" news stories for them. Film noir conventions prevail in the black-and-white art and story-the shifty, unreliable narrator speaks amid the shadows and smoke-and the ambience is one that teens will find seductive. Neven's tales of his days as both a legitimate soldier and a guerilla gang member are interesting; even more compelling are his descriptions of the ways in which certain ruthless, sociopathic fighters became, bizarrely, bubblegum idols, their looks fantasized over and their deeds lauded in pop songs. The story is told in fragments, flashbacks, and flashforwards; what readers will gain is less a "practical" knowledge of the war and its aftermath and more a deep, realistic, and dizzying sense of the time. The book was not created with promoting "war awareness" as a primary goal, which is probably what makes it so realistic. War is not clear-cut and easily described in a narrative with a traditional beginning, middle, and end. It is full of jagged edges, and, while not difficult to follow, The Fixer, accordingly, reads like the equivalent of a roomful of broken mirrors. It will leave teens feeling stunned, intrigued, and changed.
Emily Lloyd, formerly at Rehoboth Beach Public Library, DE
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (December 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1896597602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896597607
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.6 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #724,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joe Sacco, one of the world's greatest cartoonists, is widely hailed as the creator of war reportage comics. He is the author of, among other books, Palestine, which received the American Book Award, and Safe Area: Gora�de, which won the Eisner Award and was named a New York Times notable book and Time magazine's best comic book of 2000. Hisbooks have been translated into fourteen languages and his comics reporting has appeared in Details, The New York Times Magazine, Time, Harper's and the Guardian. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 31, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Just to be clear, this is not a graphic novel, as some people are saying. It is graphic non-fiction, or graphic reportage, occupying a gray area somewhere between newsprint, photojournalism, memoir, cartooning, and essay. Sacco's first such book on Bosnia, Safe Area Gorazde, is a classic -- and those who found it compelling will certainly want to read this account of his 2001 return to Sarajevo. Aided by a Guggenheim fellowship, Sacco returned to do followup research and find old friends to see how they were getting along in peacetime. In his attempt to learn more about the siege of Sarajevo and the and its aftermath, he reconnects with an paramilitary veteran who had been his "fixer" on his previous trip in 1995. In war zones and trouble spots throughout the world, fixers are the oil that lubricates the machinery of international journalism. They are the ones who steer journalists to the right translator, hotel, driver, interviewer, clean hooker, alcohol, location, etc. -- for a few hundred in hard currency per day.

Sacco's fixer was Neven, a Bosnian Serb who loves his city and fought in one of the many ad hoc brigades that were assembled by charismatic men in the early days of the war before a real Bosnian army was established.  An outsize character, Neven becomes a kind of lens through which Sacco tries to understand the war's very confusing impact on Sarajevo. The book hopscotches between various stages of the war and the present in a kaleidoscopic jumble of images, confusing nicknames, and impenetrable mix of fact and myth. Through Neven, Sacco tells the fragmentary tale of some of the more prominent warlords (almost all of whom were shady prewar characters), and of their sometimes heroic, sometimes despicable activities during the siege.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Foster on April 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A darkly violent Fellinesque riff on the Bosnian war, this "graphic novel," by Joe Sacco is a fast read, a noirish examination of the relationship between a parachute journalist and the necessary local 'fixer' who serves as a local contact and makes it possible for the journalist to drop into a foriegn country and get a story. In this case, the local turns out to be a questionable ex-fighter whose war stories are both more and less true than appearances indicate. The fixer, a troubled ex-fighter scorned by his former comrades and spurned because of his ethnic background, is a terrific character, evocative of both the unresolved issues behind the Balkan wars as well as the marginalized citizens anywhere made exiles in their own land.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lieder on December 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Somewhere in between Tanya Harding and Monica Lewinsky there was this little civil war raging throughout the former Yugoslavia. Joe Sacco is a great journalist in war torn areas and his use of graphic art of story telling is a great way of bringing the humanity to the figures caught in the midst of a maelstrom of chaos and death.

As a companion piece to Safe Area Gorazde: The Special Edition, this depicts the people who held Sarejevo together as the Serbian militias rampaged throughout Bosnia. Neven, a Serb who joins the militias trying to hold things together, tells a harrowing story of heroism and death. The fact that the government needs to hold things together justifies their decision to use whatever means necessary. Most of those means are in the form of career criminals who were mobsters long before the war started. Sacco doesn't flinch from the fact that even though they are heroes in many ways, they are also monsters who use the fact that they are holding Sarejevo together as an excuse to commit all manner of atrocity against the residents.

THe book ends with Sarejevo at an uneasy peace after a long and drawn out battle with the milita members themselves. Much of the story of Sarejevo feels familiar since these kind of things happen whenever the social order breaks down. The fact that we've been worrying about Nineteen Eighty-Four happening all this time should almost shame considering that the truly horrifying stuff isn't what happens during a totalitarian regime but after a totalitarian regime collapses and old grudges come raging out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By King Yin Yan on February 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book should be read after "Safe Area Gorazde" in order to gain a context of the war (unless you're already knowledgeable about it, which I wasn't).

This one has more psychological depth than "Gorazde". Many of the warlords who defended Sarajevo had criminal backgrounds and after the war the government tried to get rid of them, but they defied the orders. A few of them came to tragic ends.

The "fixer" is a mixed Serb-Muslim guy who was raised as a Serb. The Bosnian fighters questioned his loyalty (apparently some Serbs who were non-separatist got killed indiscriminately in the war). But he's also revealed as often lying.

In the war he was a sniper, often he had to make decisions of whether to kill someone or not, it's like playing god. I learned a lot about what war is like from this and other books by Joe Sacco.
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