# HISTORY /// Cities at War (Joe Sacco, Robert Frank and Orlando Von Einsiedel)

picture: Joe Sacco. The Fixer. London: Drawn and Quarterly 2003

In 2009, Saskia Sassen was organizing a symposium at Columbia University entitled, Cities and the New Wars (see previous article) that was gathering intellectuals such as Stephen Graham or Eyal Weizman who presented brilliant lectures about how cities are affected by urban combat.
Cities are the new battlefields for two mains reasons. The first one is related to the fact that many of the current wars are established in an asymmetric scheme (Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechenia, narco-wars in Rio’s favelas etc.) The second one is caused by the will of the belligerents to involve the population and perpetuate the urbicide (read the essay I wrote about this topic).

In this article, I would like to introduce three works of different mediums that expresses life in cities at war:
The Fixer by Joe Sacco (see his interview for Al Jazeera) is a graphic novel/documentary by the famous American author who created a very striking series about Palestine several years before. The Fixer recounts his trip to Sarajevo in 1995 at the end of the Bosnian war which is reported to him via Neven, a para-military soldier that explains the situation in Sarajevo during those three years of combat. Three years later, the war in Kosovo occurred and expressed in its most painful degree, this notion of urbicide. (see the article about the book Violence Taking Place. The Architecture of the Kosovo Conflict)
Come Again is a very beautiful book by photographer Robert Frank that collects photos of Beirut at the end of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). The city seems to be empty and every buildings is a ruin that managed not to completely collapse. Beirut is indeed one of the city of the world that has been destroyed the most since the European/Japanese cities of the Second World War and 1991 was certainly not the end of it as the Israeli army attacked the city in 2006 in its raid against the Hezbollah. (thank you very much Xinyang for offering me this book)
The last work is a ten minutes movie created by Orlando Von Einsiedel and entitled Skateistan (see at the end of this article). It introduces the story of a small school of skateboarding in Kabul, Afghanistan in which kids can forget the war for a while and learn to use their skateboards. The movie is a little bit too much aestheticizing in my opinion but remains a very moving documentary about the expression of a passion in such a city at war. (thanks Pico for the link)

Joe Sacco. The Fixer and other stories. London: Drawn and Quarterly 2003

Robert Frank. Come Again. London: Steidl 2006


5 Comments on “# HISTORY /// Cities at War (Joe Sacco, Robert Frank and Orlando Von Einsiedel)

  1. Pingback: cities at war « Espaces Publics

  2. Thank you Léopold for your interesting post! I had never heard of Joe Sacco, I’ll look up “the Fixer”. Speaking of cities at war, one can think of the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang, which is completely frozen by the totalitarian state. Guy Delisle, a Canadian author, made a striking graphic novel out of his two-month stay in Pyongyang in the early 2000s. It was fist published in France by L’Association, but is also available in English since 2005: “Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea”, Drawn & Quarterly.
    Guy Delisle also realized “Shenzen” and “Burma Chronicles”, that are worth reading!

    • Thank you Juliette,

      I read Guy Delisle’s graphic novel a long time ago which taught me that a lot of the animation movies we see in the West are partly done in North Koreans (my American friends could not believe that when I told them !). I guess that Pyongyang can be called “a city at war” as the state of emergency is continuous to have a better control on the population. However, the topic here was more about cities that can directly experience the war effect every day, even when the war is over.

      Thank you for following The Funambulist and have a good day

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