Monday, July 09, 2007

If I have been able to collect so much material related to Disney in ex-Yugoslavia in the '30s and to publish a detailed history of this little known side of Disney history (see my articles in past issues of the Tomart's Disneyana Update) is it in great part thanks to the help of Serbian underground comic book artist Aleksandar Zograf.

That being said, I had never read Aleksandar's comics. There were two reasons for this: they were not yet available in English and the French version published by L'Association (publisher of Persepolis amound other "classics") was out-of-print. The second reason was that I had seen some of the panels of his stories and was put off by his underground style (see, I have always been attracted to more classical styles like Tintin, Asterix of even the more realistic style of Blacksad).

That being said, when Aleksandar's works were published a few months ago in the US, as Regards from Serbia, I knew I had to get that book. Aleksandar is a delightful penpal (or "keyboard pal" to be more precise) and I thought reading his works might be a way to know him better. You know where this is leading, of course.

I got the book last week and started devouring it this weekend.

I - suprisingly - adore Aleksandar's graphical style and the way he is telling his stories of what life was like in Serbia during the Bosnian war and then below the NATO bombings. The book is both funny, subtle, moving (at times), very strong (always), and fascinating in the way Aleksandar (real name Sasa) captures all of the day-to-day absurdities.

I have finished Chapter 1 (comics srips) and have just started reading the emails that are collected in Chapter 2, about the bombings. After having read this already, I felt surprised that Aleksandar's works didn't win awards in prominent festivals (or have they and am I just badly informed?). Regards from Serbia definitely has the strenght, from a narative and stylistic point of view of a Persepolis (from example).

Ever since I lived in Argentina right in the middle of the financial crisis, the riots,... I have been interested in the "small" and "big" absurdities that situations like the one Sasa lived can create in the life of normal people and that not many people in Europe or the US can even start to imagine. What Sasa lived in Serbia is of course way more dramatic and lasted way longer, but there is that same sense that the reality as perceived from abroad is so much more simplified that lived on the ground. Something that we all know intuitively but that we only understand with more clarity through works like Aleksandar's.

Since the book contains at least one page mentioning Disney comics, I do not feel totally off-topic by plugging it shamefully here :-) I just truly feel it's worth discovering and couldn't help but try and share my delight with a few of you.

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