I had the fortune of sharing coffee and conversation with the esteemed author (and the translator) of this work while in Belgrade in June, 2010. AlthoI had the fortune of sharing coffee and conversation with the esteemed author (and the translator) of this work while in Belgrade in June, 2010. Although my readings of his work are limited to those which have been (officially, such as this, and unofficially by various people on the internet) to those works in English, I am struck by how contemporary the work it. Not just in reference to things such as the bombing of Belgrade by U.S./NATO in 1999-2000 and Kosovo's independence (source of the fantastic line in one of the pieces herein: "I don't know where Costa Coffee is/Let alone Kosovo" -- but more in that it makes poetry out of references to Photoshop, Facebook, and "erotic materials of the Internet"; "Electronic adventures / And digital angels" ...
I was amazed by the depth and the breadth of the man's wisdom in meeting him, but I find his poetic words something of a foundation from which to bridge the vast space between what U.S.-EU media portrays as Serbia and what Serbia actually is.
This is a work of understanding. And understanding is beautiful....more
This is a collection of essays published during the wars by New Republic Magazine, and in almost every one of the articles, the magazine's own politicThis is a collection of essays published during the wars by New Republic Magazine, and in almost every one of the articles, the magazine's own political agenda is glaringly displayed. Almost every one of the essays is heavily biased. Extremely biased. To the point of being myopic, if not outright prejudicial. In instance after instance, the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs (though the two are rarely distinguished from the other—a trait common in writings on the Yugoslav Wars) are absolutely to blame while both the Bosnians and Croats are innocent victims. Even in instances where the Serbs are not involved (Mostar, for one example; the shelling of Dubrovnik is another), niether Bosnians nor Croats are blamed for what took place or, if the slightest hint is given that they are (e.g. the destruction of the Stari Most), the culprits are rationalized and forgiven as being victims of circumstance.
The three best essay in the collection are those by Arthur Miller (which is more of what its title proclaims, a parable, and seems to be included to give a roundabout way of introducing the status of Where You Are From as being crucial in the time and place of the wars), and the two by Slavenka Drakulić—her commentary on the Stari Most is heart-wrenching.
This is the sort of commentary which takes a narrow view of the complex situation in the Balkans and renders it, as too much media does, into a simple blame-game. With only one side (as two entities are not separated by distinction) taking the brunt of blame. It is just this sort of "analysis" that leaves this area a simmering cauldron awaiting fresh flames.
I had hoped the entirety of the book would have been either personal testaments like Miller's and Drakulić's, or offering a spectrum of opinions on what took place in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Krajina, but instead it was mostly comprised of blameful rants aimed at stirring American/Western anger towards Serbia.
Disappointing, at best. But such as could be rationalized as politically understandable at the time the articles were originally written....more