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Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War
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Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  522 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize


Peter Maass went to the Balkans as a reporter at the height of the nightmarish war there, but this book is not traditional war reportage. Maass examines how an ordinary Serb could wake up one morning and shoot his neighbor, once a friend--then rape that neighbor's wife. He conveys the desperation that makes a Muslim beg the United
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 25th 1997 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1996)
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Community Reviews

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Andrew Robins
I can genuinely only think of two books which have made me want to cry.

The first was My War Gone By, I Miss it So, which is Anthony Loyd's brilliant story of covering the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya, The second is this book, another reporter's story of covering the Balkan conflict.

Loyd's book focused on horrific stories of personal, human loss, something which is inescapable in books about the disintegration of Yugoslavia, but Peter Maass's book - as you might expect for one written in 1995, s
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Cheyenne Blue
The war the world ignored and then forgot. Peter Maass was a war correspondent for the Washington Post and he covered the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. This isn't about military campaigns though, it's stories of war, about ordinary people caught up in something horrific.

When Serbia invaded Bosnia, the Bosnians appealed for help from Europe and America and were fobbed off. The Serbian propaganda machine, meanwhile, spewed out tales of Bosnians bombing their own cities for sympathy, Bosnians shootin
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Kristopher
The only reason i finished this book was because i just wanted to know the details of the Serbian-Bosnian war. But, it sincerely seems like this book was a first draft by a 17 year old kid that skipped the editor's desk and went straight to print. I find it hard to believe that any editor would have let all these horrible metaphors, digressions and excessive uses of the word "literally" be published, as is.

He made casual remarks that bordered on racist; diverted from the story of the Bosnian pl
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Simon Ph.D.
While in 1992 I was taking my first trip to Europe, falling in love for the first time, getting my introduction to Pentecostalism and learning to live, people were being exterminated only several hundred miles away from me.
While I was going into my fourth year of high school education in Bulgaria, boys and girls my age were being raped and tortured and murdered and it took me 15 years to find that out. How is it that I knew nothing about that war? How is it I never paid attention to the news, n
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Laura
Very interesting read about the war in the Balkans and the propensity of humans to fight and survive wars in general. Devastatingly difficult in many parts, glimmers of hope in others. Ultimately I feel the author's recommendations are too emotive and just as under-considered in terms of their practical consequence as those he criticises throughout the book, but that shouldn't take away from what an excellent book this is.
Elizabeth Kiss
Although I've studied the Balkans for well over a decade, I thought I had become desensitized to the atrocities that were committed during the Conflict in the 1990s. I was wrong. There were many times that I had to set this book down and walk away from it just to get the vivid images out of my head. Peter Maass was brutally honest in this book about how he originally perceived the war you watch him evolve as a journalist throughout this process.

It is a must read for anybody studying the Balkans
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Andrew
Insightful into the conflict in Bosnia, as well as some history. Maass manages to both provide some testimonies of big name perpetrators, as well as survivors. However, his is a work mainly revolving around his experiences in Bosnia and reporting on it. It's a fascinating read by all means, but the style - which seems to be like a personal journal or diary, also the noting without numbering makes it slightly cluttered. This is why I rated it lower. Otherwise, I think it's a fascinating read into ...more
Lark
Having recently traveled in Eastern Europe, I have become increasingly interested in the recent (last 20-60 years) history of this region. This book was an eye opener for one who, living in the U.S., received conflicting information from our government concerning the Bosnian War. I almost couldn't put this down and so appreciate how Mr. Maass remains fair and objective until the near end of his time as a reporter there, when the brutality of the Serbs and his frustration with the West's refusal ...more
Lindsay
Reading about historical events from the perspective of a journalist is always appealing to me because of the fact that the information is (almost) always presented in such a readable way. Love Thy Neighbor is no exception. Maass does a great job condensing a ton of information about the Bosnian War into around 300 pages, and it never felt particularly slow. Granted, I find the Bosnian War fascinating, but I still feel like I can say with confidence that this account is fairly fast-paced.

The do
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Noah
So for whatever reason, I became very fascinated by the Bosnian War. From what wikipedia told me, it was an absolute clusterfuck, but what really intrigued me was how such atrocities could occur in Europe just 20 years ago. It's something I never learned about, nor ever really heard about. But over 200,000 Bosnians were killed as the result of genocide with countless more being subjected to rape, ethnic cleansing, torture, and expatriation.

Peter Maass recounts the war through his memoirs as a jo
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Jarome
I love it when journalists write books to cover a story from a more behind the scenes perspective. None of us will deny that our news-media coverage of events are filtered and sometimes just a joke. However, this not only taught me about the Bosnia-Serbian conflict, okay, 'war', but it gave me yet more insight into the man's-inhumanity-to-man scenario, revolving around the idea of, what people will do and say based, not on what they know, but on what someone else says.

I went through so many emot
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Georgia Roybal
This was quite an intense book which examined not just the war in Bosnia, but how humans are led to do horrible things to one another by circumstances and evil people. When I am reading I usually sit and read while I eat. This book could not be read while eating. As a Jewish person, the description of the genocide made me ill. Here are some particularly powerful quotes from the book:

"I never thought that one day I would talk to a skeleton. That's what I did at Trnopollje. I walked through the ga
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Terry Parker
You know, as a reporter, I think Peter Maass did an excellent job. He was objective enough, yet personal enough that his story of being in the Balkans came across sincere and true.

It was the kind of reporting that you or I might write, in that we would see things, hear things, that may or may not be quite true, and yet the evidence is there, but the perpetrators are refuting everything. The question is always, could we do more? Could we step out of the cocoon of reporting and protect, soothe, or
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Ubah Khasimuddin
A must read for all students of the Balkans or who are heading there. It is a hard read, you will cry and marvel at just how cruel humans can be to another but it should be required reading for all students of European history. Maass tells in graphic detail of the atrocities and horrors of the Bosnian war of 1992-1995.
Milan
This is very biased. The author despises brutal action of some small balkan tribes but on the other side is full of understanindg for oil-wars or other wars where "grand nations" prove their point. And who cites Richard Nixon anymore for God's sakes?! Or Bill Clinton? Hilarious.
Devan Sipher
"Never forget" was the watchword after Hitler. Yet the world mostly ignored the atrocities of the Bosnian war -- and then mostly forgot about it afterward. Peter Maass displays a Hemingwayesque style as he uses his sharp reporter's eye to depict one of humanity's lowest moments, depicting Sarajevo, a city that once hosted the Olympics Winter Games, as a surreal deathtrap. But he abandons his journalistic objectivity to expresses his bewilderment at the world's response. He uses humor to leaven t ...more
Ivar
A very personal and good account about the Bosnian war and the appeasement conducted by the West. Although the book was very good I found parts of it slow and thought that the 'flow' sometimes was interrupted.
Peter Owens
This book is to Yugoslavia what "We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families" was to Rwanda.
Lora
I could only read the first 80 or so pages because of the time at which I was reading it; it's VERY depressing. The author places the whole mess of the war(s) in Bosnia and Croatia in the laps of a very few Serbian ultra-nationalists who corrupt other Serbs into thinking they need to side with their fellow Serbs. The worst part is that the rest of the world is so clueless about this while it's going on under their noses. Yugoslavia was integrated and fairly cosmopolitan before the war; this real ...more
Patrick
Out of all of the books I have recently read pertaining to the war in the Balkans and more specifically in Bosnia, this one is the most clear, concise, and brutally honest one i have come across. Maass shows what it is like to be a journalist during war time, which can include braveness, pettiness, and utter dejection with humanity. As well as explaing the crisis he also brings up questions on human nature that reflect what is happening currently today. A must read for anyone who is interested i ...more
Ted Newell
Amazing book which does not overdose on the gory but gives a sense of what it might be like to live day after day for two or three years in a horrific war. His description of life in Banja Luka for Muslims is harrowing, his visits to the cleaned up concentration camps, and his description of the young man shot on Sniper Alley in Sarajevo. Unforgettable. He even met Milosevic one on one. He does not dismiss the Serbs as primitives, or single out Rwandans, or isolate anybody, rather, the capacity ...more
Louise Geoghegan
About to start this. I've been told this is one of the best non-biased insights about the travesty of the Bosnian war. After having visited quite a lot of Eastern Europe, I've always been interested in this period of time having been alive when when it happened, albeit very young, I was five when the USSR and essentially Yugoslavia dissolved, yet have never really had any concrete knowledge as to why all the hosility and killings came about. Quite hard to swallow that it only ended 15 years ago ...more
Sara Moninger
If you didn't already take with a grain of salt what the U.S. government (or any government, for that matter) tells the press, this book will convince you otherwise. It's a reporter's account of the conflict in Bosnia and how the U.S. government downplayed it and refused to intervene. The author interviewed in person Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic (talk about an evil man!). We'd of course like to think of Hitler's heinous reign as an isolated incident, an exception to the rule, but the Ser ...more
Brendan
Some folks question some of Maass' history, but I'm not qualified to quibble. What I can say is that I've never read a more passionate and exquisitely readable piece of war journalism than this. Sure, Michael Herr's Vietnam War classic Dispatches might qualify as better literature, but it's loads less accessible. For what he loses in style, Maass gains in immediacy: crossing Serb checkpoints or interviewing Muslims in modern-day concentration camps. The narrative is alive with danger but also wi ...more
Jay
One of the best books I have ever read. One page I was laughing; the next I was crying. Maass's lack of objectivity is startlingly refreshing, and his observations razor-sharp. The people in this book -- Dragan the Serb, Milosevic, Tuna, and of course Maass himself -- are more fascinating and engaging than the characters in most fiction I've read in a long time. Brilliant, brilliant book. Everyone should read this.
Tae
Oct 23, 2007 Tae rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wishes to know more about the Balkan conflict
Though sadly depressing, this is a stark and vivid protrayal of what our leaders have allowed to happen in the modern age.

I would reccommend this book to anyone who wants an eye opening view on what the UN has failed to do in the past and why we keep failing in places such as Darfur, etc.

Somehow, I wish enough people would read this book that we would actually stand by our convictions.

Dorothy
Apr 06, 2012 Dorothy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: sociologists, history nerds
Recommended to Dorothy by: Joyce Kaufman (for a Whittier Scholars class)
Shelves: history
Essential reading for those interested in how group identity is used in the context of civil struggle. Also, it's just really wonderfully written. Maass captures that which is heartbreaking with integrity and finesse. You don't feel like you're a spectator ogling the tragedy of others; you feel like you are reflecting upon human flaw from a respectful (and necessary) distance.
Annie
With the recent arrest of the Serbian war criminal, Karadzic some of you might want to read an account of the Serbian-Bosnian-Croation war. This account reads like a novel, and is so heartbreaking. I read it during my senior year in college and it inspired me to focus on international human rights in law school, which lead to my choice to become an immigration attorney.
Lila
I read it because we are going on a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina but it is a book others should read, too. Very sobering.

September 2012--I am re-reading the book in preparation for another trip to BiH next month. No easier the second time through. If anything it is more powerful because I can picture the places in Sarajevo Maass describes.
Melissa
This is a good book to read about humankind failure. How an evil thought begins and is easily spread and used to persuade. This book is a difficult read because it is so graphic... however I do understand the necessities of the gore to understand the depths of the horrors that happened in the Bosnian War.
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“The people were divided into the persecuted and those who persecuted them. That wile beast, which lives in man and does not dare to show itself until the barriers of law and custom have been removed, was now set free. The signal was given, the barriers were down. As has so often happened in the history of man, permission was tacitly granted for acts of violence and plunder, even for murder, if they were carried out in the name of higher interests, according to established rules, and against a limited number of men of a particular type and belief....In a few minutes the business quarter, based on centuries of tradition, was wiped out. It is true that there had always been concealed enmities and jealousies and religious intolerance, coarseness and cruelty, but there had also been courage and fellowship and a feeling for measure and order, which restrained all these instincts within the limits of the supportable and, in the end, calmed them down and submitted them to the general interest of life in common. Men who had been leaders in the commercial quarter for forty years vanished overnight as if they had all died suddenly, together with the habits, customs and institutions which they represented.

p. 11”
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“The people were divided into the persecuted and those who persecuted them. That wild beast, which lives in man and does not dare to show itself until the barriers of law and custom have been removed, was now set free. The signal was given, the barriers were down. As has so often happened in the history of man, permission was tacitly granted for acts of violence and plunder, even for murder, if they were carried out in the name of higher interests, according to established rules, and against a limited number of men of a particular type and belief....In a few minutes the business quarter, based on centuries of tradition, was wiped out. It is true that there had always been concealed enmities and jealousies and religious intolerance, coarseness and cruelty, but there had also been courage and fellowship and a feeling for measure and order, which restrained all these instincts within the limits of the supportable and, in the end, calmed them down and submitted them to the general interest of life in common. Men who had been leaders in the commercial quarter for forty years vanished overnight as if they had all died suddenly, together with the habits, customs and institutions which they represented.

p. 11”
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