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A School Library Journal Best Adult Book for High School Students
One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, Christian militia members entered the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and began to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians. Ari Folman was one of those Israeli soldiers, but for more than twenty years he remembered nothing of that night or of the weeks leading up to it. Then came a friend’s disturbing dream, and with it Folman’s need to excavate the truth of the war in Lebanon and answer the crucial question: what was he doing during the hours of slaughter?
Challenging the collective amnesia of friends and fellow soldiers, Folman painfully, candidly pieces together the war and his place in it. Gradually, the blankness of his mind is filled in by scenes of combat and patrol, misery and carnage, as well as dreams and hallucinations. Soldiers are haunted by inexplicable nightmares and flashbacks—snapping, growling dogs with teeth bared and eyes glowing orange; a recurring image of three young men rising naked out of the sea to drift into the Beirut battlefield. Tanks crush cars and buildings with lethal indifference; snipers pick off men on donkeys, men in cars, men drinking coffee; a soldier waltzes through a storm of bullets; rock songs fill the air, and then yellow flares. The recollections accumulate until Ari Folman arrives at Sabra and Shatila and his investigation reaches its terrible end.
The result is an absorbing reconstruction, an inquiry into the unreliable quality of memory, and, above all, a powerful denunciation of the senselessness of all wars. Profoundly original in form and approach, Waltz with Bashir will take its place as one of the great works of wartime testimony.
"Like Art Spiegelman, I have an aversion to the rubric 'graphic novel.' Golden Globe-winning Israeli film Waltz with Bashir was first an animated film and now also exists as a 128-page book—novel, comic book—do you care? In both iterations it is a powerful story based on Tel Aviv filmmaker Ari Folman’s army experience in Beirut in 1982. Folman witnessed massacres perpetrated by Christian militia in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila; 20 years later he had no memory of this horrific crime against humanity. This narrative follows his efforts to reconstruct the events and give sense to the dreams and hallucinations (powerfully rendered by illustrator David Polonsky) that haunt him. Frankly, I prefer the book to the movie—firstly, it is not subtitled. Secondly, the text balloons make it clear who is speaking. And finally, the printed images seem more vivid and connect and flow more coherently. In either version, this weighty story is a potent testimony—not that anyone was ever punished for this genocidal event. Nor was the hollow declaration 'never again' heard."—Robert Birnbaum, The Morning News
"Adapted from the Academy Award-nominated animated film, Waltz with Bashir stands by itself as a brilliant graphic memoir in its own right, just as thrilling, gorgeous, thought-provoking and humanitarian as the movie. Using the framework of the original storyboards but with stills from the final art of the film, frame for frame the book is a production of love, a moody masterpiece of art styles and narrative sophistication . . . His journey back into his own past leads [Folman], one by one, to six other men haunted by memories, men who were once well-meaning young soldiers uncertain who they were fighting against, who they were shooting at or what city they'd landed in, but not daring to stop firing. The soldiers' stories within stories slowly lead Folman to remember what really happened, to memories he's kept buried for 20 years of the day the Israeli troops began to realize they were participating in a genocide. Waltz with Bashir is a visually rich, harrowingly honest look at Folman's re-discovery of his traumatic past. It grapples not only with enforced military participation in evil and its psychological after-effects but also with memory and its devious betrayals. Besides which, the book is simply gorgeous, a visual feast . . . the excellent book and movie complement each other perfectly; you'll want to experience both."—Nick DiMartino, Shelf Awareness
"While it must have been no easy task for Israeli filmmaker Folman and chief illustrator Polonsky to turn their groundbreaking, Golden Globe-winning 2008 animated documentary into a graphic novel, the transition from film to page is flawless. Folman's story is the account of how he came to grips with the repressed memories of the time he was a soldier in the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. As much a study of the fungible nature of memory as a dissection of the ease with which war zones can dehumanize ordinary soldiers, Waltz with Bashir uses the same journalistic technique for self-examination as David Carr did with Night of the Gun. Folman goes from one fellow veteran to the next, trying to get somebody to tell him what he can't remember. Bit by bit the holes are filled in—though never completely; the narrative is never cheapened by turning it into a simple mystery to be solved—as Folman sidles closer to the war's central horror: the massacre of Palestinians by Christian militias at two refugee camps. Utilizing frames that seem cut straight from the film, the book threads together Polonsky's darkly gleaming nightmare drawings into a seamless whole."—Publishers Weekly
DAVID POLONSKY was the art director and chief illustrator for the animated film Waltz
One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, a Christian militia invaded the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and massacred three thousand Palestinians. Ari Folman was one of those Israeli soldiers, but for more than twenty years he remembered nothing of that night. Then came a friend’s disturbing dream and with it Folman’s need to excavate the truth of the war in Lebanon and find out what was he doing during the hours of slaughter at Sabra and Shatil.