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The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia
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The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Hall relates his encounters with Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, "real people, likeable people" who are now overcome with suspicions and anxiety about one another. Hall takes the standard explanations and inverts our perceptions of the country. What emerges is a portrait of a country that possibly should never have been, and is in the process of insuring that it will never be ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (NY) (first published July 1st 1994)
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A Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanThe Histories by HerodotusJohn Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughThe Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
History as Literature
171st out of 388 books — 325 voters
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven GallowayWaging Modern War by Wesley K. ClarkThe Tuzla Run by Robert  DavidsonThe Impossible Country by Brian HallAs Long as Sarajevo Exists by Kemal Kurspahić
Books on the Bosnian War of the 1990s
3rd out of 44 books — 20 voters

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This is one of the most informative and enjoyable books I've read in a long time. Brian Hall is a novelist and sometime journalist who travelled through the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and got caught in the beginnings of all the violence(that vilonce, unlike the violence of the past 800-1000?? years). By travelling around and talking mainly to people he meets on the street, as well as to some journalist/academic friends of friends, he gives a very "absorbable" taste of why everyone's so fed up wit ...more
The only thing thing I've ever read about the break-up of the former Yugoslavia that makes any sense. Hall travels through the country just as it is falling apart, bewildered by how people who had lived side-by-side for decades could turn on each other the way they did. He offers a comprehensible brief history of the country's strategic position which explains why they have been invaded so many times and why they have held onto past enmities so long. It's easy to read and hard to put down. Highl ...more
Erik Graff
Apr 22, 2011 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Yugoslavia fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Upon Bill Clinton's tardy decision to admit Bosnian refugees into the USA, my East Rogers Park, Chicago neighborhood was transformed as it has been many times by many groups--Armenians, my own family, Jews, Odessans etc.--during its history by an influx of immigrants. One of them, a student at Loyola University Chicago, and her family became particular friends, leading me to read everything I could find about the history of Yugoslavia and the socio-political circumstances of its dissolution.

I read this several times following my first trip to Croatia and before I spent over two years in Bosnia teaching English. Without having had a chance to review it in the recent past, I'd recommend it highly to anyone who wants a readable account about the region. It's also nice because Brian Hall talks with normal people.

It was written before the conflicts which probably helps in that at that time there was less material circulating that regurgitated common and simple stereotypes about people.
What a fascinating piece of research. Hall travels to Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo just as war is breaking out in 1991. He knows the countries and their peoples well as he has travelled there before. He allows the history of these countries and their relationships to be told by the people, enlightening us with historical background throughout. He is a very intelligent writer and leaves us with a mixture of sadness and disgust which is hard to reconcile, particularly In light of our subsequent know ...more
Pete Diamessis
I was fortunate enough to have Brian Hall as a neighbor when I first moved to Ithaca. This book is a riveting account of the last days of former Yugoslavia, told by an objective American observer who lives among all the different ethnic groups. Possibly, I felt a strong identification with the book because of Greek roots. Nonetheless, it's a super-fascinating text and the author does reach the dramatic conclusion that the Balkans are too complex for Americans to understand.
I began Hall's book after reading what was basically a textbook on the disintegration of Yugoslavia, so I had the cold factual background of facts down. The beauty of Hall's book is that it illustrates the color of the people that instigated, perpetuated and accepted that disintegration. Way more than just a "Who and Why", Brian Hall takes us along on a journey through the main population centers of the country (Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Bosnia, etc) and introduces us to his friend from previo ...more
Kenneth P.

In 1991 author Brian Hall had extensive contacts throughout Yugoslavia. He had friends in Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia. He had friends of friends, acquaintances, in Montenegro and Kosovo. These contacts enabled him to travel extensively and to hang out with Yugoslavs of all ethnicities at a time when tensions were building and war seemed a distinct possibility.

As Yugo-politics became poisonous, Hall's emphasis remained with the people around him. His queries among friends were guarded yet focused.
"The Impossible country: A Journey through the last days of Yugoslavia" is actually an interesting book written by an unbiased author about the collaspe of Yugoslavia. Robert Hall does a good job of keeping all the facts recent and within the 20th century. Who really cares about what happened 500 years ago, that information is ancient history. In most books about the collaspe of Yugoslavia, you get all this unecessary information about ancient conflict about Serbs and other ethnic groups, but t ...more
Oct 20, 2011 Karen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
A dense but readable tale of the last days of Yugoslavia, as the country slid into the horrors of the early nineties. Hall clings to his identity as a travel writer rather than a reporter, both as a disclaimer and at times as a kind of safety position--as things heat up, American reporters become targets, while travel writers are (at least sometimes) just inexplicable. I can't pretend that I can explain the dense, tangled histories of the many ethnic/religious/cultural groups who made up the for ...more
Oct 10, 2009 Arlene rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the Balkans and World Affairs
Recommended to Arlene by: It was on a list of recommended books about the former Yugoslavi
An interesting and informative book on the histories of the Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Albanian peoples and the lead up to the Balkan War of the early 1990s.

The author, an American, made a point of travelling throughout the former Yugoslavia and got to know people from all of the conflicting groups.

It is not perfect: Although the author does not "take sides" among the different ethnic groups and and seems to genuinely like many of the people he writes of, many seem to have been included for
May 23, 2011 Kirsten rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Balkans, European history, or socio-political writing.
Recommended to Kirsten by: Elizabeth
It's incredible the feats of understanding and compassion that can be achieved simply by talking to people. This remarkable book holds a glass to the multiple voices of the Balkans, just as the former Yugoslavia was beginning to dissolve into violence and genocide in the early nineties. Hall, like a novelist, presents us with people and their stories first. He asks difficult--sometimes explosive--questions of those he meets while traveling throughout what is now Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bo ...more
Boris Cesnik
Loved the writing style. I loved the personal interaction with normal people on a daily basis. I loved the dialogues. I loved every single encounter.

I will not forget each protagonist. I will not forget the descriptions of every journey. I will not forget the opinions, ideas, prejudices, histories and stories of people mentioned in the book.

I loved the book, and will mot forget Yugoslavia and its last days.
Tina Lee
A must-read for those interested in Yugoslavia/ the Balkans. Hall's tour through the country prior to the war years manages to evoke understanding and sympathy for broiling ethnic conflicts, dissapointing poverty, and commie-nostalgia. Hall doesn't pretend to be an expert and this outsider perspective allows the reader a realistic feel for a trip to the Balkans- with all its frustrations and confusion wrapped up in thousands of years as Europe's timber box.
I read this book as I was traveling through Zabreb and Ljubljana trying to understand the Balkan conflicts. I don't usually focus on nonfiction easily but Brian Hall made this account very personal and readable. The viewpoint is that of an American, but one that speaks the language and makes contacts with people from each region. Included with all of this is Balkan history, particularly as if affected the 90's wars. Highly recommended.
Brian Hall's novel, though little more than a travel book recording his encounters and conversations with various Yugoslavs, is ultimately an account of the prejudices and disparities that propelled Yugoslavia to its perhaps inevitable collapse. His narrative remains free of bias or blame and, as a result, is poignant, perceptive, and ever so real. A beautiful and compassionate depiction of the peoples of a broken nation.
I read this book after my deployment to Bosnia during the Fall of '03. I wish I had read it before. This is a very even-handed book of reportage by a journalist who was in the country just prior to the break up of the former Yugoslavia. A very insightful and at times funny book. You'll learn about the roots of the conflict there and why, despite international community efforts, any peace will be temporary.
One of the best books for understanding the ex-Yu countries; however, Hall clearly had come with an agenda and almost forces certain people to act the way one would expect. It's bordering on entrapment. While I want to urge everyone to read this book, try and get a used copy or borrow one. His methods are highly unprofessional and put a lot of people in danger.
Pretty confusing at times, but then again so was Yugoslavia. Overall I thought it was good.
a brilliant travel memoir on the beginnings of the Balkan War during the '90s.
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