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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

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  532 Ratings  ·  48 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 2003)
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Sep 15, 2015 Hadrian rated it really liked it
I think it's rather telling that the top review for this is in Croatian and has five stars. I'd rather keep it that way.

This is a book about the war crimes trials in the Hague after the Yugoslav wars. She at first appears bored with the proceedings until a witness talks about bloodstains. This the structure of the book - cycling between stories of ordinary people, and then overwhelming brutality.

There is some background of the political history of the regime, and some detail about the personal
Feb 06, 2016 verbava rated it it was amazing
коли славенка дракулич писала цю книжку, младич із караджичем усе ще були на свободі, мілошевич – живий, а чорногорія боролася за незалежність. за трошки понад десять років, які минули з того часу, чимало деталей змінилося (наприклад, усі вищезгадані), але то не має значення, бо запитання тексту універсальні: про банальність зла, про те, як хороші люди перетворюються на монстрів, про скутість одним ланцюгом і кулю кольору хакі.
солодке слово "гаага", яке нині пробуджує стільки надій в українських
Sep 05, 2015 Tonkica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Volim njezina viđenja stvari, opise.. I da, rijetko je kada nešto crno-bijelo!
Michael VanZandt
Jul 22, 2009 Michael VanZandt rated it it was ok
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
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
Chris Hays
Apr 26, 2014 Chris Hays rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 11, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, 2013, non-fiction
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
Sep 21, 2012 orsodimondo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reportage, croazia
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
Oct 05, 2012 Mike rated it liked it
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
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
Michal Huniewicz
Feb 02, 2014 Michal Huniewicz rated it really liked it
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
Jan 25, 2016 Olivia rated it really liked it
The war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia are still shocking. These chapters on the war criminals themselves are exceedingly nuanced, a lesson in Arendt's "Banality of Evil".
Dakota Thompson
Jan 28, 2017 Dakota Thompson rated it really liked it
The book is a poetic and hazy reminder that the war doesn't end, even when the fighting is done and the criminals face judgement. It still lives. Drakulic exists as a person truly viewing the war as if watching a movie, but harshly reminding the reader there is no movie playing. It is not fiction. She takes a brush and creates a powerful image for each man (and woman) on trial, giving them a what-if life, had the genocide not touched them, but without sympathy and just curiosity. There is no saf ...more
Sep 25, 2007 Jennine rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Drakulić unfolds a clever psychological and political analysis of the dreadful happenings within the territories of the former Yugoslavia during 1991-95. Who were the perpetrators of the many crimes against humanity? Yet the 'Who' does not focus on the perpetrators' identities (Milošević, Karadzić, Mladić, Gotovina, and so on are in her words already too much like 'celebrities'), but takes a close and mostly neutral look at their crimes and statements before the Den Haag international court.

Oct 31, 2009 Katie rated it liked it
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
Aug 17, 2015 Milos rated it really liked it
Shelves: other
Anglický překlad. Dílo hodnotím kladně, protože pojednává o velice zajímavém tématu - válka v bývalé Jugoslávii a osoby s ní spojené. Autorka narozená v dnešním Chorvatsku, dnes žijící v Rakousku (Švédsku), líčí příběhy lidí odsouzených za válečné zločiny a zločiny proti lidskosti. Kniha se skládá ze 13 kapitol a zabírá se procesy a osudy např. Milana Levara, Gorana Jelisiće a známých jmen Slobodan Milošević a jeho žena Mira Marković, Ratko Mladić a zmiňuje i významné osoby Radovana Radidžiće, F ...more
Chapter 10 ("Ribbons and Bows") spends far too much time criticizing Mirjana Marković's appearance, because apparently that's a thing that matters.
Yeah yeah yeah, war crimes and ethnic cleansing and political manipulation and all that. But Marković is not sufficiently pleasing to Drakulić's eyes. Truly, there is no greater crime.

Chapter 11 ("Punished by the Gods") is only partly about Ratko Mladić, the actual notable figure. It's also about his daughter Ana. And even then, it's speculation (base
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
Jan 11, 2016 Alexis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite the gruesome material, I found this novel to be one of the most fascinating read's on the Yugoslav Wars. Drakulić approaches the material in a clear and concise way, with the predominant focus being on the main perpetrators of the various war crimes committed. One of my favorite aspects of this book is that the author examines the numerous psychological factors that contributed to the transformation of ordinary citizens into instigators of war crimes. More often than not this paints them ...more
Sep 25, 2016 Jo rated it it was amazing
This book is a look at how nationalism and xenophobia gripped ordinary people and made them commit violent atrocities against their own brothers and sisters. I see the beginning of the same thing happening now in the Western world, and it's terrifying. This book offers some insight into how and why that sort of thing happens, and what we can do to stop it. The short answer; get to know those who are different than you. It's hard to fear "the other" with whom you are familiar. And without fear, t ...more
Jul 23, 2013 Marzena rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Mar 25, 2011 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
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
Tamara Leontievova
"But turning your head away or remaining silent in the face of injustice and crime means collaborating with a politics whose programme is death and destruction. and wheter it is willing or unwilling collaboration doesn't really matter, because the result is the same."

obrovsky dolezita kniha o vojnovych zlocinoch pachanych v juhoslavii. a neuveritelne aktualna. napisana uzasne jednoduchym jazykom, hemingway v sukni. aj pre tych, ktori o juhoslavskej vojne a balkane vela nevedia. fascinujuca cesta
Aug 06, 2012 Kirsten rated it liked it
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
Dec 18, 2012 Josepha rated it it was amazing
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
Pedro Varanda
Sep 04, 2015 Pedro Varanda rated it really liked it
Perturbador, é a única palavra que poderá descrever este excelente livro. Os crimes de guerra no conflito Servo-Croata na perspectiva do cidadão comum. Gente banal sem qualquer tipo de ideologia politica ou religiosa, com profissões normais, gente boa incapaz de fazer mal a uma mosca, que por ganancia, oportunismo ou pura maldade, vê um dia a oportunidade de matar, violar, roubar, sem qualquer tipo de sentimento de culpa. Recomendo.
Jul 02, 2014 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Larisa  Dedic
May 29, 2015 Larisa Dedic rated it really liked it
I personally found this book very informative, not to say interesting and as a reader it gives you perspective from people who committed horrendous war crimes. This is very unusual for a book about the Yugoslav wars, since these war criminals are usually portrayed as monsters. I would have give her five stars if Drakulic wrote more about the other war criminals from the Croatian and Bosnian side.
Sep 15, 2008 Aronkai rated it it was amazing
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?...
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Slavenka Drakulić (1949) is a noted Croatian writer and publicist, whose books have been translated into many languages.

In her fiction Drakulić has touched on a variety of topics, such as dealing with illness and fear of death in Holograms of fear; the destructive power of sexual desire in Marble skin; an unconventional relationship in The taste of a man; cruelty of war and rape victims in S. A N
More about Slavenka Drakulić...

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