Adam's Reviews > King of Tuzla

King of Tuzla by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
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bookshelves: balkan, yugoslavia, living-history

The King of Tuzla is a book of memories and regrets.

Tijmen, the chief protagonist, is a Dutch officer serving with the UN forces in Bosnia during the civil war between the Serbs and the Bosnians during the early 1990s. The impression that I got from this book was that the UN was acting rather like a school prefect trying to maintain the peace, but powerless to achieve any real results other than providing some momentary deterrence. The warring parties took pot-shots at each other even when Tijmen's brigade was in residence in a particular place. Once Tijmen and his comrades left that place, the two sides fought as furiously as before.

There are 3 main threads in this fictionalised memoir. First, and most interesting, are the brief vignettes of the lives of former Yugoslav citizens. These describe beautifully the hardships that they faced. Second, there is the bleak account of UN army life in the battlegrounds of Bosnia. Powerless to act, the UN soldiers lived in hazardous places, having little to do with the actual reason for their being there. Third, the author gives us a series of Tijmen's memories of his life as a soldier in the Netherlands - both in and out of the military academies that he attended. These memories form a substantial part of the text. The 3 main strands are interwoven to produce a tale of a soldier who yearns for action - both in the field and on 'civvy street' - but fails to be satisfied in either.

This book is a valuable and interesting addition to the vast body of literature ('fact' and fiction) that exists about Yugoslavia and its break-up. Its fascination derives from the fact that this account of the unpleasant conflict between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Moslems comes from a fairly objective military observer who experienced a part of the conflict first-hand.

I was also intrigued by the insights that this book gives of military life in the Netherlands, a country that I rarely associate with modern warfare.

This book should appeal to the mainstream reader, but particularly to those interested in the Balkans as well as those who, like me, have a taste for the unusual.
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Reading Progress

October 12, 2013 – Shelved
October 12, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
October 12, 2013 – Shelved as: balkan
October 12, 2013 – Shelved as: yugoslavia
October 12, 2013 – Shelved as: living-history
October 20, 2013 – Started Reading
October 28, 2013 –
page 60
October 31, 2013 –
page 126
November 6, 2013 –
page 200
November 7, 2013 – Finished Reading

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