They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague
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They Would Never Hurt a Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  300 ratings  ·  38 reviews
"Who were they? Ordinary people like you or me—or monsters?” asks internationally acclaimed author Slavenka Drakulic as she sets out to understand the people behind the horrific crimes committed during the war that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Drawing on firsthand observations of the trials, as well as on other sources, Drakulic portrays some of the individuals accu...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 26th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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orsodimondo
OCCHI FISSI SUL PIANETA ORRORE
Nel caso dei tre stupratori, c'è da chiedersi davvero cosa intendano quando si dichiarano non colpevoli.
Slavenka Drakulić tratta una materia che conosce bene, che ha vissuto sulla sua stessa pelle e seguito in prima persona (è nata in Croazia, figlia di un militare): lo fa con una lingua semplice, piana; rifugge dalla retorica; applica il ragionamento logico, usa la psicologia, non sfugge alle domande difficili, si chiede e indaga, va a fondo, guarda il male negli...more
Michael VanZandt
I cracked this book for the first time with high hopes. After researching and writing on the Bosnian genocide, I was eager to tackle Slavenka Drakulic's perspective on the ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia. For all the history written about the fighting itself, very little ink is spent on the human behavior that brought these nationalities to such unthinkable crimes.

Drakulic, a Croatian professor living mostly in Sweden, approaches each individual on trial from a critical yet at times s...more
Michal Huniewicz
This is the "Banality of Evil" of the Balkan War in the 1990s. Slavenka Drakulic does not shy away from asking difficult questions, and does not pretend she has all the answers. Unlike Hannah Arendt, she does not delve into the court proceedings, and only briefly mentions the judges and prosecutors. At times too emotional and personal, she offers page after page of malicious remarks on the looks of the defendants, but also does occasionally give them the benefit of the doubt. Despite the somewha...more
Ingeborg
A simple and straightforward text about what makes people commit horrible war crimes. Could anyone, in the right circumstances, become a criminal? What I like most of all is the author's argument about "preparing" ordinary people for hating another nation, The Other. The reasons for hating (people of other nationalities, other race, religion etc.) don't have to be rational, they just have to be convincing enough, and are mostly based on old myths! This is the horrible truth. There should be more...more
Mike
I don't remember much of this book. I read it around the same time as I watched the film Downfall, so I must have been on some weird kick of works that attempt to analyze the humanity of inhumane people. One of the most shocking things that Drakulić observes is that a lot of these former enemies, who between them destroyed an entire country, hang out together in confinement. Confinement is hardly the word for their prison facilities, which are more like a closed off retirement home than a penite...more
Laura
In this book, Drakulic tries to understand what led to the 1991-1995 Balkans War. Born in Yugoslavia, she was raised amid the heroic stories of Tito's Parisans, Europe's most effective anti-Nazi resistance. She grew up in a society that stressed Yugoslavian brotherhood. It was a world where Serbians, Croatians, and Muslims all worked, lived and played together. This world was rent asunder in the early 1990s after the fall of communism left a vacuum filled by nationalism, paranoia, and ethnic cle...more
Ingeborg
A simple and straightforward text about what makes people commit horrible war crimes. Could anyone, in the right circumstances, become a criminal? What I like most of all is the author's argument about "preparing" ordinary people for hating another nation, The Other. The reasons for hating (people of other nationalities, other race, religion etc.) don't have to be rational, they just have to be convincing enough, and are mostly based on old myths! This is the horrible truth. There should be more...more
Katie
Mostly this book was just depressing. Each chapter is about a different war criminal that was on trial for crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 90s. The author is attempting to discover what makes someone commit such horrible crimes She doesn't really reach any amazing conclusions and there was a little too much speculation but basically she says that it can happen to anyone, given the right circumstances.

What really struck from this book and the last book I read...more
Jennine
Why a book on war criminals? Drakulic says: "In the end what matters in regard to war criminals and why we should bother to take a closer look at them is one single important question: what would I do in their situation? The unpleasant truth is that there is no clear answer."

The brief but evocative studies in this book put a human face on a select group of war criminals from the former Yugoslavia. Drakulic is no apologist for these (mostly) men, though. She does not seek to excuse what they did...more
Kate
Very interesting book, grim subject matter. It gave me a much different perspective than the other works I have read about this war, and I felt like it helped me get a better understanding of who was fighting whom and why.

As a native to this region, she brings real perspective to the subject matter. After the war, author uprooted herself to go and observe trials in The Hague. I think she raises a lot of profound issues pertaining to justice following the war, the "TV Set Mentality", and how hard...more
Sam Allard
(2.5/5) -- Unfortunately, one of the less insightful books I've read on the war in Bosnia. Admirable attempt to tell the story from the perspective of the criminals, complete with firsthand observations in the Hague, but almost zero secondary sources. Drakulic is prone to speculation and sentiment, but is short on facts and new analysis. A few lovely chapters, granted, but for the most part a bit of a yawner.
Helena Beslic
I read this book in its originally written language. ' Oni Ne Bi Ni Mrava Zgazili' is an intense read that requires time and an open mind. the fact remains that what was written about was/is the reality of many former Yugoslavians still today. I really appreciate the strong approach Slavenka does take when it comes to the writing of each and every piece of literature.
Graham
A chilling yet essential accounting of the the conflict in the Balkans. Drakulic approaches these horrors unflinchingly and portrays them with the steady eye of a reporter. Despite her acknowledged bias, or perhaps because of it, she is able to address and unravel many of the most important questions we have today. This book is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the Balkans or 21st century conflict.
Ldooley
Aug 14, 2009 Ldooley is currently reading it
Ok, Ok, my summer reading list needs WORK - this one is about the genocide in Bosnia and how basically normal people become butchers and why some folks will always see them as just that guy down the road and not the guy who raped and killed my neighbors. It's well written, easy to follow, at times hard to read. I can only take it in pieces. But apparently my summer reading list has turned into a book on genocide, a book on a happy marriage (that turned into a horrible story of the husband fallin...more
Chris Hays
This was possibly one of the hardest books I have ever read. There are books about subsaharan Africa that rank up there, but this book screams...why can't I be fiction? Hard to imagine this happens everywhere there oš war.
Kirsten
On one hand, Drakulic's insights about her native Croatia before the war are interesting, which is why I gave the book three stars. What bothers me about the book is that she specifically states she's writing it from a neutral perspective -- one that is likely impossible for someone native to the region. The prejudice is still evident, even though it can be well hidden. She takes the time to write about Croat war criminals, but saves her harshest critiques for the Serbs, and never addresses Musl...more
Marzena
I'm deeply disappointed to note that this book is poorly written. The subject it deals with is a difficult one, so I really wanted to like it, but I simply couldn't. Each chapter tells the story about a single person and while it tries to cover both personal life and war crimes the said person was charged of, the stories are incomplete. You don't get to know much about the personal life, you don't get to know about criminal charges either. Maybe it's because the book is very personal. As a perso...more
David
Fascinating, sobering, terrifying in places. An important reminder that war unleashes something, creates the opportunity (or perhaps the necessity) for something very dark to emerge from even so-called normal people. Thus, war should never be entered into lightly. Or at all, if it can be avoided.

I think we Americans, having failed to experience war upon our own soil for so long, have allowed ourselves to believe in "good war", "just war", forgetting that war brings with it, always, torture, rape...more
Randi
Overall, well done. The memoir style was a little distracting at times, but I think she succeeded in her goal of showing that war crimes were not committed by monsters, but by normal people.
Josepha
A testament of the "Banality of Evil" (Hannah Arendt's term) in the vain of Eichmann in Jerusalem and Ordinary men (by Christopher Browning). An absolute must read for anyone interested in the genocide of Bosnian muslims and the rape of tens of thousands of Bosnian muslim girls and women.
Full of chilling details of the crimes committed (not for weak stomachs and sensitive minds!) and the personal lives of the mass murderers involved. Provides an inside look into the "the Hague trials" and life...more
Rannie
How does a civilized country disintegrate into factions willing to exterminate their former neighbors? And who were these mass murderers - psychopaths or just average guys afraid to say no? An interesting and chilling look at the war criminals of the former Yugoslavia.
Aronkai
This is pretty awful book to read. It tells about events, you wish would never had happened. If this book is too overwhelming for you to read, just focus on the last chapter and epiloque. They are excellent and force you to think.

Are war criminals monsters or just people like you and me? How would I have behaved in similar situations? How so many people just didn't do anything? Why do we do awful things?...
Cynthia Bond
Very good and informative read. Although many things have already changed since the book was written, such as Rakto Mladic's capture and Milosevic death -among other events, it was still extremely insightful. Gave personal understanding and presentation to the events and the people involved in the war crimes themselves as well as the authors opinion and questions.
Suketus
Kuvaus Bosnian sodasta sotarikostuomioistuimen oikeudenkäyntien kautta tarkasteltuna. Kiinnostava, surullinen, järkyttävä. Kirjoittaja on yhdistänyt omia muistojaan ja suku- ja henkilöhistoriaansa yleiskuvaukseen. Näitä tapahtumia ei pidä unohtaa.
Becky Lai
The subject matter of this book is hard to stomach but it's written in a way that allows you to get pretty engrossed in each of the stories. It focuses less on the idea that all humans are potentially monsters and more on the idea that all monsters are still pretty human.
Jenny
definitely a good read to learn more about the horrible stuff that went on in the balkans. but drakulic's opinions and observations often get mixed in with the facts that she is reporting. so don't let it be your only source for balkan history, but it's a great starting point.
Margaret
A satisfying (if abbreviated) account of one woman's personal understanding of the trials and criminals of her fellow countrymen, and speculation about the hows and whys of the crimes that were committed.
Elia
Another great book by Slavenka Drakulic that is also a collection of essays about "yugoslav" war criminals.
Vivi Almxrio
"lovely book" about everyday people and a war gone terribly wrong. I wish it was longer!!!!
Sarette
Amazing and heartbreaking at the same time!
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Slavenka Drakulić (1949) is a noted Croatian writer and publicist, whose books have been translated into many languages. Her main interests include the political and ideological situation in post-communist countries, war crimes, nationalism, feminist issues, illness, female body and old age.

In her fiction Drakulić has touched on a variety of topics, such as dealing with illness and fear of death...more
More about Slavenka Drakulić...
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