Friday, November 10, 2006

Planet of the Apes

God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages. ~Jacques Deval, Afin de vivre bel et bien

prbdI read Pride of Baghdad today, and had tears in my eyes when I fianlly put it down. I vaguely remembered the tale the book was based on, but it was so long ago that I'd forgotten most of it: in the earliest days of the American invasion of Iraq, 4 lions were driven from their cages when the bombing of the city destroyed the Baghdad Zoo. Mad with fear and hunger, they fled for days through that man-made hell before being discovered by American soldiers:
Tuesday, 22 April, 2003
US Troops Kill Baghdad Lions

Four starving lions which dug their way out of a Baghdad zoo have been shot dead by American soldiers, the military says.

Two of the big cats lunged for the US troops who then fired at them, one soldier said.

Sergeant Matthew Oliver said three lionesses and one male lion clawed their way out of their outdoor pen through a crumbling wall.
It's a beautiful book.
The depictions of the city in ruin are dreamily compelling. (UPDATE: The inestimable Elayne Riggs reminds me that I forgot to mention artist Niko Henrichon by name; this is his second work, but his future looks secure, judging by the quality of his work.)pride_65_72_colors
Writer Brian K. Vaughan made a deliberate decision to tell the story in the lions' voices as a way to get under the skin of a war-weary, atrocity-jaded audience:
What he wanted to do, Vaughan explains, was 'to tell a story about the suffering of Iraqi civilians'. But telling a realistic story about the suffering of Iraqi civilians would not, of itself, hit home sufficiently hard: 'It's weird. You can threaten and kill a baby in a movie, but put a dog in jeopardy and people will walk out. You make a more immediate connection to a giraffe than a person. It sounds psychotic, that you can feel more for an animal than a human.'
It doesn't sound psychotic to me. It sounds to me as if we have been excusing our torment of each other for so many thousands of years by dehumanizing each other, that we have finally arrived at a point where we can only feel pity for creatures that don't remind us of ourselves.

Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. ~Albert Schweitzer

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