A masterful mix of journalistic reporting and graphic art.
The plainspoken title offers little hint of the devastation within, as the Italian artist Igort (5 is the Perfect Number, 2003, etc.) focuses his considerable talents on 20th-century atrocities that bled into the 21st, as Russian totalitarianism and seemingly ceaseless war have made a mockery of human rights. The first notebook is more of an oral history, as the interviews recorded by the artist testify to the horrors of famine in the Ukraine—sanctioned by Josef Stalin—and human resilience in the face of hunger, disease, deportation, and exile. “What emerged was a programmatic plan that, by military might, crushed the Ukraine, obliterated its independence movements, destroyed its identity,” writes Igort, followed by the communist edict: “Ukrainian culture doesn’t exist! In order to carry out cultural and physical genocide they had to follow a plan defined down to the last detail.” The second notebook works more like a piece of investigative reporting. “I spent five years in Ukraine, Russia, and Siberia, trying to understand, to document,” writes the author. “What was the Soviet Union? What was it like to have lived through this experience that had lasted over seventy years?” He also tells the stories of other journalists who had tried to document the atrocities and who had paid with their lives. He illuminates the life and work of Anna Politkovskaya, a writer who saw herself as a truth-teller in the lineage of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and whose writing put her in grave danger. “Her empathy, her ability to listen and share, took her beyond the limits of her own method,” writes Igort. “She had shed the journalist’s distance and was left simply a human being. And that was her death sentence.” As well reported and written as these notebooks are, the visual artistry reinforces the impact, with a richness and evocation of emotional detail that transcend words.
A work that ranks with the best journalism and the finest graphic artistry.