Understanding Jerusalem and its Cross-Cultural Dilemmas in Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles From the Holy City

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Abstract

Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (2011) is a nonfictional graphic novel which narrates the experiences during a year that the Canadian artist and his family spent living far from home, in the occasionally dangerous and perilous city of the ancient Middle East. Part humorous memoir filled with “the logistics of everyday life,” part an inquisitive and sharp-eyed travelogue, Jerusalem is interspersed with enthralling lessons on the history of the region, together with vignettes of brief strips of Delisle’s encounters with expatriates and locals, with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities in and around the city, with Bedouins, Israeli and Palestinians. Since the comic strip is considered amongst the privileged genres able to disseminate stereotypes, Jerusalem tackles cultural as well as physical barriers, delimiting between domestic and foreign space, while revealing the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian present conflict. Using this idea as a point of departure, I employ an imagological method of interpretation to address cross-cultural confusions in analysing the cartoonist’s travelogue as discourse of representation and ways of understanding cultural transmission, paying attention to the genre’s convention, where Delisle’s drawing style fits nicely the narrative techniques employed. Through an imagological perspective, I will also pay attention to the interaction between cultures and the dynamics between the images which characterise the Other (the nationalities represented or the spected) and those which characterise - not without a sense of irony - his own identity (self-portraits or auto-images). I shall take into account throughout my analysis that the source of this graphic memoir is inevitably a subjective one: even though Delisle professes an unbiased mind-set from the very beginning, the comic is at times coloured by his secular views. Delisle’s book is a dark, yet gentle comedy, and his wife’s job at the Doctors Without Borders paired with his personal experiences are paradoxically a gentle reminder that “There’ll always be borders.” In sum, the comic medium brings a sense of novelty to the imagological and hermeneutic conception of the interpretation of cultural and national stereotypes and/or otherness in artistic and literary works.

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Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Philologica

The Journal of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania

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