In a complicated tale of family ties, old loves, and chutzpadik tourists, an Israeli granddaughter and grandmother set off for Warsaw to file a property restitution claim. It could read like a madcap adventure, but in Israeli graphic novelist Rutu Modan’s graphic novel The Property, it’s an engrossing and sweet story of individuals struggling to live and love against the background of a dark history.
In an interview, Modan said that despite her family’s Polish origins, the country never held any special allure for her. But the backdrop of the city remains important throughout the novel. Modan conveys a wonderful sense of the atmosphere of Warsaw, including some lesser-known spots: Powązki Cemetery on All Soul’s Day, for example, or the historic Fotoplastikon, the 19th-century stereoscopic precursor to film, which is tucked into a courtyard on Aleje Jerozlimskie, or Jerusalem Alleys, one of the enormous thoroughfares that slices through the city. With detailed touches, Modan’s illustrations literally illuminate her text, and shed light on one family’s relationship with a city and with each other.