Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Joe Sacco: “The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme”

Joe Sacco is interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle upon the occasion of his new book “The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme.”

The book is a unique slipcased 24 foot long panorama of the Battle of the Somme. There's an additional 16 pages of annotations and an essay by Adam Hochschild, author of “To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-18.”

There are no words in the work. It's a visual depiction of a battle that claimed 30,000 lives in its first hour. The death toll would end up being a million, back in November 1916.

One of the unforgettable details from Hochschild’s piece: the artillery barrage on the first day of the Battle of the Somme was so tremendous — 224,221 shells were fired in one 65-minute period — that “the rumble could be heard as far away as Hampstead Heath in London.” Some gunners, he adds, “bled from the ears after seven days of nonstop firing.”
Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Q: How long did it take you to make the drawing? 
A: Not counting the research, eight months. I thought it would take four 
Q: This project can’t have been a strictly nine-to-five affair; the astonishing amount of detail must have made for a lot of all-nighters. Is that so 
A: It was a lot of work. I was working with magnifying glasses to get the figures in the background right. I tried not to work too many night hours, because I prefer natural light, and by around 7 o’clock my eyes would be quite strained. The trick is to concentrate and work methodically.

Preview of the book, and a video interview with Mr. Sacco is here.

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