il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

An irreverent self-analysis

By Ada Treves

Telling world in the surroundings and telling about oneself, one panel a week, one problem at a time. This is how “The Realist”, a blog by Asaf Hanuka was born. Originally, it was published in Israel on the business magazine The Calcalist, which in 2010 commissioned him a comic strip dedicated to economics problems. It was first time that the Israeli cartoonist – winner of major international cartoon awards, among which Gran Guinigi Price in 2015 and Eisner Award in 2016- drew himself. And it was a discovery. One thing that came so easy to him and that led him to a sort of irreverent self-analysis in which the personal and the universal intertwine and feed off each other, enriching themselves with new paradoxes.
The panels for this exhibition come from this material which, collected in three volumes, was published in Italy under the title “KO a Tel Aviv” (English version “The Realist”) thanks to the publishing house Bao Publishing. A specific choice, despite the fact that Asaf Hanuka has published much more, including the recent “Sono ancora vivo” with Roberto Saviano, comics that made the artist more famous in Italy. In “The Realist”, the source of inspiration is often a problem, something that can cause frustrations, confusion, fear. A tiny conflict, often personal, that becomes the starting point to tell a story that touches everybody. Something difficult that becomes light. A moment of sadness that can make us smile.
Whether the drawings are about family matters, the infinite contradictions of Israeli society or the telling of one’s own traditions, the core remains unvaried. The main theme is always a hard-to-be-defined identity: a Jew who does not believe in God, an Arabic Israeli citizen, a successful drawer who is not much self-confident. Someone who hides a secret identity. A superhero, just like the ones we all draw. Or someone who thinks that what defines us the most is what we keep for ourselves rather than what we let the others see.
Reminiscences of the childhood, family stories, everyday life problems, the birth of a son or daughter. It does not matter if the panel is made up of nine, six or cartoons– the most common formats- interpersonal relationships will always be a metaphor for the political and social context.
In the most classic format, the one with nine cartoons, more levels of reading co-exist.
The natural order – from the left to the right, from the top to the bottom – overlaps with the natural attraction for the central cartoon. In fact, thanks to the panel’s symmetry, the eye catches the central cartoon first, and then it goes back to the first drawing on the top left. So often in the centre of the panel, Asaf Hanuka inserts an object, or a close-up that sticks out as you scroll through the story. But, depending on the story and on the narrative rhythm, sometimes he splits the page in four or six cartoons, or even opts for one single cartoon, for a strong impact.
His gaze is always sardonic, and never banal. The inner and the outside world, the good and the bad, tragedy and joy intertwine, and chase and mock each other. Seriously but light-heartedly, just as life.

Translated by Margherita Francese and revised by Alice Pugliese, students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.