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Asaf Hanuka's Surreal Visual Syntax

I’m a graphic novel hound and I’m always on the lookout for unusual, quirky or straight-up saucy strips. Enter Asaf Hanuka’s tonally and visually sublime collection, The Realist. Culled from the weekly strips Hanuka created for the Israeli newspaper The Calcalist, this is a collection of graphic art ruminating on the stresses of family life, financial woes, the relentless fear of being bombed, addiction to Facebook – all of which are presented in the most dazzling and surreal register. Hanuka infuses the quotidian with a sense of magicality wherein the mundane is juxtaposed with a sense of infinite, generally disquieting possibilities.

Whether he is taking care of his young son or beefing with his frequently stressed-out wife, who feels put upon on almost every scale, Hanuka takes a slightly apolitical approach to writing about his life in modern day Israel. Even though the nights in Jerusalem are delineated as a war zone, with bombs and evacuations a way of life for its citizens, we see this sombría wargame playing out in subtle ways: a father telling his young son bedtime stories as the night sky and its terrors are glimpsed through the windows: a husband and wife thinking of Paris as a possible getaway that doubles as a sense of renewal, a desperation for sanctuary from the realities of their homeland. None of this, however, is presented in an ultra dramático style. If you’re looking for a graphic primer on Palestine and Israel, you won’t find it here (for that you need to read Joe Sacco's seminal Palestine or Sarah Glidden’s thought-provoking How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less).

What makes this graphic novel stand out as a transformative work of art is the art itself. Clever, imaginative and awe-inducing, the panels in this strip are so ingeniously laid out that you’ll find yourself gasping again and again at the inventiveness and wry splendour of it all.

So what are you waiting for? If you’re a lover of great graphic novels, cop your copy of The Realist with the quickness. It’s a stunning book and should be filed next to the visionary work of Daniel Clowes and Scott McCloud.


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