War stories: The Fixer, a story from Sarajevo by Joe Sacco

Sacco’s mighty war-zone reportage has educated me about the Israel-Palestine conflicts and the Balkan war of the Nineties. His books tend to be rather epic in scope (spanning years, populated by several protagonists and taking into account various perspectives on the same conflict). In The Fixer, however, Sacco looks at the Balkan war through the eyes of a single individual, as he reports Neven’s experiences of the conflict. This Sacco conducts with journalistic objectivity, while simultaneously providing a personal, tender characterisation. Neven, the fixer of the title, spins wild stories which teeter, Sacco is told, on the convergence of fact and fiction. Nevertheless, Neven’s insights into the warlords, gangsters and politicians who ran the war are priceless.

Sacco’s harsh dialogue and punchy historical reports drive the narrative along quickly – indeed, the reader is in for a rollicking ride as the story zips back and forth in time and here and there in location, from trenches to kitchens to cabinet members’ chambers. The reviewer’s final word must go to Sacco’s immense talent as a cartoonist: realistic, full of character and exciting to behold, Sacco’s illustrations in this book will grab your eyeballs and command your attention. An elegant, surprising book.

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