A true story
from Comics dinasaur Joe Kupert
, in the form of a Graphic Novel
. Fax From Sarajevo
details the attempts of Kupert's friend
and business associate Ervin Rustemagic
to flee Sarajevo
during the Serb
of the city with his family in 1992
It takes him over a year to do this, during which he communicates to Kupert and his other colleagues via fax transmissions from various locales within the city. In these transmissions, he bears witness to the destruction of everything he has ever owned at the hands of the Serbs, the empty promises of Foreign diplomats who offer to help him to leave, the callous apathy of the bureaucratic United Nations Task Force, and the complete disregard of the rest of the world. In the background is the endless and meaningless assault by Serb forces on the civilians of the city, from machine gun nests, from arbitrary shellings, and from the infamous snipers, who were paid a $300 bonus for each citizen killed. In the end, Rustemagic and his family get out, through the clever use of some UN technicalities, and fax campaigns of many of his friends across the world.
Fax From Sarajevo is a powerful and moving work, but it suffers from a couple of flaws. First of all, It would have been nice to have more historical context. Why were the Serbs so ruthless in their assault? Why was the UN acting worse than useless? (After one escape attempt through Serbian gunfire, the Rustemagics run into a UN blockade that makes them turn back towards the city) And what happened to Sarajevo after they left? None of those questions are adequately answered.
The second problem is that Kupert, who once wrote comics like Sgt. Rock and Tarzan, tries to portray Rustemagic's story in the same overblown pulpy style as his earlier work. While the siege of Sarajevo was certainly a horrible time, prose like
Past the gauntlet again...amidst a hail of screaming shells...into besieged Dobrinja
sometimes makes the work hard to take seriously.
Despite these flaws, Fax From Sarajevo is still a very good work. I recommend it for its description of a time and place that most of us Americans paid little attention to, as well as for the serious questions it raises on the purpose and effectiveness of the United Nations.