Waltz with Bashir A Lebanon War Story

Ari Folman and David Polonsky

Metropolitan Books

080508892X

9780805088922

Trade Paperback

128 Pages

$18.00

CAD20.00

Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

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.

REVIEWS

Praise for Waltz with Bashir

"Some memories are like the rubble in a city strafed and scarred by war. Reconnoitering into the past, we pick through the debris, eager to know old truths but fearful of what we may find. Some people choose psychoanalysis to make this treacherous journey . . . Ari Folman did it with Waltz with Bashir . . . Like generations of Israelis, Folman grew up in a country that is besieged by hostile neighbors even as it occupies land the Palestinians consider their own. That twin feeling, of being both prisoners and police, might give anyone restless dreams. Further, Folman's parents' history as Auschwitz survivors gives him a kinship to the detainees in the Lebanon camps. So the soldiers whose commanders did nothing to stop the 1982 massacre—while women, children and the elderly were led out of the camps begging for help—are especially susceptible to long-term remorse . . . The message of the futility of war has rarely been painted with such bold strokes."—Mary Corliss, Time

“Special, strange, and peculiarly potent . . . [Folman] spotlights a drawn version of Folman himself on a quest to remember what transpired during the 1982 massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon where he served as a soldier . . . Advised by his best friend Ori Silvan, who sagely warns Folman about the ungraspable nature of memory, Folman begins a quest to find out what really happened, to himself and others, by interviewing friends and acquaintances fighting in Lebanon when the massacres happened . . . [Carmi], an old schoolfriend of Folman’s, recalls the weirdly party-like atmosphere on the transport boat over, and a bizarre dream of his own in which a beautiful giantess carried him off into the sea . . . Another man, Shmuel Frenkel, recalls gunning down an adolescent boy after the kid fired a rocket-propelled grenade at them . . . As the interlocking tales spiral the narrative closer to the events at Sabra and Shatila, the visuals become more matter-of-fact and less hallucinatory, as if Folman were trying to strip everything back to some bare essential truth."—Variety

"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

Reviews from Goodreads

BACK

BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

ARI FOLMAN, a Tel Aviv–based filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. His two previous feature films, Saint Clara and Made in Israel, both received numerous Israeli academy awards, among them best film and best director for Saint Clara, which also won the People’s Choice Award at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. In addition, he produces and writes for television, including for the Israeli series In Treatment, which was remade in the United States for HBO.

DAVID POLONSKY was the art director and chief illustrator for the animated film Waltz

Read the full excerpt
BACK

MEDIA

Watch

  • Movie Trailer for Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman

    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.

BACK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Ari Folman and David Polonsky

  • Ari Folman, a Tel Aviv–based filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir. His two previous feature films, Saint Clara and Made in Israel, both received numerous Israeli academy awards, among them best film and best director for Saint Clara, which also won the People’s Choice Award at the 1996 Berlin Film Festival. In addition, he produces and writes for television, including for the Israeli series In Treatment, which was remade in the United States for HBO.

    David Polonsky was the art director and chief illustrator for the animated film Waltz with Bashir. His illustrations have appeared in every major Israeli daily and magazine. He has created animated short films for Israeli television, received multiple awards for his children’s book illustrations, and teaches at Bezalel, Israel’s prestigious art academy.

  • Ari Folman
  • David Polonsky
BACK