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The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War
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The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  388 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Le mie brevi storie, scrive la Drakulic, metà racconto metà saggio, parlano delle metamorfosi che la guerra produce: metamorfosi dei valori, del modo di pensare, del proprio io profondo, fino al punto di non riconoscersi più". Nelle storie di Balkan Express non ci sono gesti eroici, vittorie e sconfitte. C'é invece la trama del vissuto. "L'altra faccia della guerra" é quel ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published May 28th 1994 by Harper Perennial (first published 1992)
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4.02  · 
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 ·  388 ratings  ·  55 reviews


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Amalia Gavea
Balkan blood runs in my veins and I am proud of it. I have read extensively on the subject of the terrible war that left a deep, bloody mark on the Balkan region during the early 90s. This book is probably one of the worst I've ever read.

Most writers try to provide an honest, balanced, level-headed account of the conflict. This book was full of cheap sentimentalism, hysterics, prejudices and hate speech. She claimed that ''nationality'' creates dangerous boundaries, she preaches against authorit
...more
Jim
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This month, I am reading several books on the Balkans during the 20th century. Naturally, I turned to my favorite Croatian writer, Slavenka Drakulić, who writes about the early stages of the Serbo/Croatian War in the early 1990s. As she writes at the start:
The myth of Europe, of our belonging to the European family and culture, even as poor relations, is gone. We have been left alone with our newly-won independence, our new states, new symbols, new autocratic leaders, but with no democracy at al
...more
vicky
Wow. This was a such a powerful and immensely important book that touched me deeply. Slavenka Drakulić (who’s quickly becoming a safe bet for me) once again shared her personal experience with post-communism in short fragments, this time focused explicitly on the Yugoslavian conflict in the 1990s, gruesome accounts as well as daily life during wartime and reflections on the ”war only happens to other people“-mentality. It can (and should) also be read as a timeless document against prejudice and ...more
Pippa
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, culture, war
An interesting book about the slow psychological adjustment to being at war. She writes of how perspectives change, and how what seems right at one time doesn't seem right at another. She also tells (in brief chapters) other people's experiences.
Keval
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked one review of the book which said this is war reporting without the body count. Indeed, this is what sets Drakulić's book apart because numbers lose their value after a while. We are shocked by the first death, the first image of a dead body. Then it's a second, a tenth, a thousandth. Look at what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. How often do we stop to think about the people being killed senselessly in those places?

Drakulić's essays reminded me of Saadat Hasan Manto's collection of
...more
Amanda Anthony
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although I was a child during the breakup of Yugoslavia, I never learned about it in school. So when I went to Croatia on vacation this summer, I realized how little I knew about their most recent history. I picked up this book in Zagreb because I wanted a more personal perspective on the war (to know if it was something I wanted to learn more about). Drakulic does a wonderful job of giving you a perspective of what it's like to be in a war when you least expected it. She has motivated me to rea ...more
Emily
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The kind of humanism and self-reflection that is in A Woman in Berlin, and also (although it's fiction) in Burnt Shadows. I don't know what to say about this. I'm very glad I read it. It was very hard. I'm going to the library tomorrow to get everything else of hers they have.
Gill
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
An excellent book. If nothing else, read the chapter entitled 'High-heeled Shoes'.

Available on Openlibrary.
Randi Kennedy
Horrifically pertinent to the USA in 2019, in our own othering of immigrants and refugees. I hope I'm not reading into our future, but it seems too plausible.
Roozbeh Daneshvar
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was sure that from the point of view of many children, war is not as severe as it is for the adults. I had the impression that a lack of understanding doesn't let the children comprehend the real meaning of the war. At least the classes are cancelled and it is not that bad after all.

This book changed my perception all together. I looked back more carefully and noticed that I, even a child, was impacted by a war; and a quite significant impact. I have been in an eight-year war and the impacts h
...more
A.T.H. Webber
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am ashamed to say that I only remember the war depicted in this book as little more than an intellectual enterprise. It was given to me by a friend of my wife's as we had just come back from a holiday in the region, and she thought I might be interested.

In 1991, when the short essays in this book commence, I was 19 years old, and living in Melbourne, Australia.

I remember the news coverage, as limited as it was, showed in point form the actions of one group of people visited upon another group
...more
Helena
The main message I would say, is about the insanity of war, and what a devastating effect it has on the people. But also, if neighbours were able to turn on each other and do such horrible things, in former Yugoslavia, it could happen anywhere, during similar circumstances. This is a hard, almost impossible, insight to take in. No one is really "immune" from this, we could all become someone who go about our daily business, "plowing our field" while people are screaming in agony and dying on the ...more
Bob H
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a first-person, journalist's account of the first year of the Yugoslavian civil war, 1991-1992. She writes in a sensitive and perceptive way, an observer who watches her country fall apart. A Croat in Zagreb, she tells of the sense of displacement, of once being able to travel to Belgrade easily and now can't -- it's enemy country now -- or having to show a passport just to go into Slovenia. She interviews the soldiers at the front, sees the wreckage, experiences air raid warnings in Zag ...more
Boris Cesnik
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I cried. I got angry. I cried again and then I felt ashamed. I cried one more time and felt taken aback.

I could not simply read her words. I had to feel something, I had to empathise, I had to sympathise. I had to believe, to get angry, to be moved and touched deeply.

If you're not ready to open up to this vortex of emotions and feelings - just do not open the book.

The human logic in her very words is there for everyone to see and sense the meaning of.

Even after 24 years her wise, universal, poig
...more
Chris Hays
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teaching
This book was a tough read, but easier than 'They Would Not Hurt a Fly'. The difference is the fluctuations of feelings the author goes through as her country falls apart. The more politicians and people who think war might be a solution, the more I feel this book should be mandatory reading. Being removed from war makes it easy to feel this is the answer. These tales of how everyday life becomes irrational helps us to understand why we should do everything possible to help (not with military st ...more
Ruby Hollyberry
Mar 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bio-memoir
There's a lot of terrible here. It's terrible in a way to read these essays and articles about something that happened back when I was first discovering boys. Finally, I'm informed? The events were terrible too. But the stories are amazing-terrible - a whole lot of terrible amazingly told. A whole lot of amazing. The writing is amazing too, just plain amazing, how well it showcases all the terrible. There's so much terrible to tell, it's amazing.
Rhode
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: bio-general
A collection of essays. Imagine you were a baby boomer woman, but instead of being born in the West, you were born in Eastern Europe (in this case the former Yugoslavia, which was not a soviet state, but enormously influenced by the soviets.) Now imagine that you're in your mid-40s, when your life should be stable, established and becoming easier, when instead your country falls into civil war.

That's what this book is about.
Zahra Basir
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Actually, living in a developing and politically unstable country gives me the chilling of this feeling that today may be the day when my country's going to fall down.
Mrs. Drakulić has described her feelings about war beautifully; while you can see her every day life right before you.
In fact, the story of war is a sad story which i wish would disappear from the world; But it's an undeniable fact of the mankind's world. It's a fact as long as the history.
Michael
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I give this book such a high rating on the strength of two essays. "An Actress Who Lost Her Homeland" and "If I Had a Son". The whole book is a solid collections of the effects of war viewed from Drakulic's sharp eye. An Actress... spoke to me the most because of the importance of art and being an individual when that can be so hard and have dire consequences.
Andrew
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
like the other book I've read by her, how we survived communism, this is a series of essays and articles I found it very insightful and personal about the effects of war. a quick but rewarding read.

a note on the edition: there were loads of typos, spelling errors, punctuation mistakes, etc.
Carolee
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Can be hard to find, but one of the BEST books I have ever read on everyday life in a war zone.
Adam
Nov 18, 2013 added it
Brutal. But you should read it. The Balkan wars were too fucked
TienvoorNegen
Oct 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Eyeopening book on how your perspectives change as your day-to-day, neighbour-to-neighbour world that surrounds you slowly turns into a war zone.
Good book for educational purposes!
David
Mar 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Well-crafted, and therefore chilling, vignettes of Croatia descending into war in the early 1990s.
Theron
Sep 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's a short book - and very readable. I'm just so steeped in ex-Yugo stuff right now that it's a bit too depressing to read. But I highly recommend it.
Roberta
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Read in English although I can't find the edition and really liked it. Learned a lot and like her style.
Caroljean
Feb 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Best book I've ever read about how war impacts people living in and around war emotionally. Wonderful essays by this Croation journalist/novelist.
Catalina
Although it was written in a mostly whiny tone, Drakulic makes some good points about societal conditions during war.
Kaisa
Nov 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Too horrible. But well written.
Jo
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
What a brilliant writer. Her short texts combine the analytical skills of a journalist with the emotional depth of a poet.
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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
“- He was our commander not because someone appointed him but because we picked him to be our commander. He was a brave man, tall, six feet eight perhaps, and strong. He wasn’t afraid of anything. We looked up to him, all of us. And when I saw him lying there, without legs, crippled and totally helpless … I felt terrible.
- Did it perhaps occur to you to quit at that moment?
- No, it didn’t, once you’re inside you cant get out, you cant quit”
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