Brian Hall journeyed through Yugoslavia in the spring and summer of 1991, just as Croatia and Slovenia were seceding and the country was starting to slide into civil war. In this book he describes a country in which the release of communism's iron grip and a wave of rumour and propaganda had reopened older wounds, turning uneasy co-existence between the various national and religious communities into open hostility. His conversations - with farmers, artists, defence fighters, politicians - demonstrate how intelligent, liberal citizens can be persuaded to believe the very worst of another person, merely because that person is a Serb, or a Croat, or a Muslim. The author was shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award for "Stealing From a Deep Place: Travels in South-Eastern Europe".
An incisive and affecting Yugoslavian travelogue from May to mid-September 1991, just as the country split up and its former republics went to war. Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, 1988, etc.) professes no solutions for the current Balkan trauma. Rather, he offers an elegy of sorts for the promise of humanism and an eyewitness account of the balkanization of mind and action. "Even intellectuals in Yugoslavia tend to think the truth is not only knowable, but obvious," Hall writes, and he unravels that in lively scenes and portraits, mostly of ordinary people but also of Serbian president Slobodan Milo??evi?? and the wearied Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegovi?? He describes the weirdness of Sarajevo television news, the slant of the stories dependent on the reporter's ethnicity. He traces the tortured rationalizations behind Croatians' defense of their not-so-unique language. He suggests that supportive audience members give a Serbian opposition press conference the feel of a revival meeting. Hall has a good grasp of the ironies of history (the Serbs claim the legacy of both the partisans and the Chetniks, who opposed each other in WW II) and of the present (Croatia's leading antidemocrats aren't home-grown - they're emigres from Australia and Canada). In multiethnic Bosnia, the microcosm of Yugoslavia, he drinks local-style coffee with Sarajevans yearning for reconciliation, their cosmopolitan "private dream" not shared by those in the divided countryside. In Kosovo, Hall finds a bearded Albanian passing as a Serb and maintaining an eight-year secret relationship with his girlfriend from home. Only in Kosovo, Hall observes, do old rural traditions remain intact despite the "self-vaunting" talk about Croat, Serb, or Muslim culture. Understandably incomplete as a tale of recent history, but a worthy aid to understanding Yugoslavia's demise. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 1st May 1996
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.9 x 13.0 x 3.0
Weight (kg): 0.31
Edition Number: 1