Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story


“Special, strange, and peculiarly potent... Extraordinary.” —Variety

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...

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“Special, strange, and peculiarly potent... Extraordinary.” —Variety

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 a gripping reconstruction, a probing 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Adapted from the Oscar-nominated animated film of the same name, this is a stunning investigation into one soldier's real-life experience during Israel's 1982 war in Lebanon. In 2006, Folman met up with a friend from his military service days, who told him of the recurring nightmares he had based on their experiences. Folman admitted to not remembering anything from the conflict and started a quest to find out what really happened to him during those traumatic days. He traveled across Europe interviewing former comrades, a reporter who covered the war, and his own psychologist to piece together at least some of the events that he lived through. As the story develops, both Folman and readers relive the terrors of the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, a tragedy that ended in the slaughter of more than 800 unarmed civilians by the Lebanese Christian Militia while Israeli forces let it happen. While Folman tackles many of the same wartime themes of violence and tragedy as Joe Sacco's Palestine (Fantagraphics, 2001), the additional explorations of memory and dream make the experience more personal. Polonsky's art reuses still images from the film. His clever eye for detail and creative sense for layout make the images explode on the page. Thought-provoking and emotionally powerful, this is a fabulous story for mature readers interested in wartime narratives told in a fresh, innovative style.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805088922
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/17/2009
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 979,307
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1 The Wheel of Sexual Ecstasy 3

2 Pleasure in the Passions 35

3 The Hindoo Art of Love 65

4 Rending the Veil 105

5 A Doubtful Book in Old Age 137

6 Overwhelming Obscenity 179

7 Kama Commodified 213

Note on Sanskrit Spelling and Pronunciation 237

Bibliographical Essay 239

Acknowledgements 253

Index 255

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