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Volume 10, No. 3 - April 2000
More in this Issue

EX-YUGOSLAVIA

WE ASKED SIX EXPERTS TO DISCUSS THE BEST RECENT BOOKS ON THE BALKANS' MOST TROUBLED REGION.

Robert M. Hayden, associate professor of anthropology and law, director of the Center for Russian & East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and author of Blueprints for a House Divided: The Constitutional Logic of the Yugoslav Conflicts (Michigan, 1999).

"Steven Burg and Paul Shoup's The War in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Ethnic Conflict and International Intervention (M.E. Sharpe, 1999) should be the standard reference work on this conflict. Shoup has studied Yugoslavia since the 1950s, Burg since the 1960s; both are fluent in Serbo-Croatian, and the work makes thorough use of original Bosnian sources. Eric Gordy's The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives (Penn State, 1999) and Robert Thomas's The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s (Columbia, 1999) show how Milosevic has maintained power without popular support.

"Miranda Vickers's Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo (Columbia, 1998) is the most balanced history of Kosovo available. In Kosovo: How Myths and Truths Started a War (California, 1999), Julie Mertus explores the differing views that Serbs and Albanians held of each other before the outbreak of violence, concluding that only partition or secession could resolve the situation. NATO clearly agreed."



Eric Gordy, assistant professor of sociology at Clark University and author of The Culture of Power in Serbia: Nationalism and the Destruction of Alternatives (Penn State, 1999).

"Dubravka Ugresic's Culture of Lies: Antipolitical Essays (Penn State, 1998) is a trenchant, engaging, and direct exploration of the consequences of nationalist authoritarianism on everyday life and on the realm of ideas. More informally, the cartoonist Aleksandar Zograf (a pseudonym for Sasa Rakezic) has published his Žwar diary'--with cartoons--in Bulletins From Serbia: E-mails and Cartoon Strips From Beyond the Front Line (Slab-o-Concrete, 1999). With extraordinary insight and irony, Zograf captures the experience of people who supported neither the Serbian regime nor its military adventures but were bombed nonetheless. The Central European University Press deserves tremendous credit for its translations of research by scholars from the region. The anthology by Nebojsa Popov and Drinka Gojkovic, The Road to War in Serbia: Trauma and Catharsis (CEU, 2000), chronicles the debates among antinationalist scholars in Serbia in the period up to and during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croatian weekly Feral Tribune has also released an excellent series of monographs in the past few years."



Andrew Baruch Wachtel, professor of Slavic language and literature at Northwestern University and author of Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation: Literature and Cultural Politics in Yugoslavia (Stanford, 1998).

"The Fortress (Northwestern, 1999), a novel by Mesa Selimovic (1910-1982), translated by E.D. Goy and Jasna Levinger, takes place in eighteenth-century Sarajevo. The narrator, Ahmet Sabo, returns home from fighting the Russians. He has watched practically his entire company die either in battle or by suicide. Already suffering from what we would now call post- traumatic stress syndrome, he discovers that every member of his family has died of disease while he was away. Gradually, with help from a Christian girl whom he eventually marries, he comes back to life--but as a thoughtful and reflective person in a society that does not value these qualities. Selimovic's subtle psychological characterization, his moral and philosophical insight, his vivid invocation of a historical moment, and that moment's resonance with more recent events in the history of the former Yugoslavia, make this an exceptionally powerful novel.

"Muze niso molaale (The muses were not silent), edited by Josip Osti (International PEN and Slovene PEN, 1999), is a collection of particularly moving, war-inspired poetry by Slovenian poets."



Maria Todorova, professor of history at the University of Florida and author of Imagining the Balkans (Oxford, 1997).

"I recommend the moving memoirs of Dimitrije Djordjevic, Scars and Memory: Four Lives in One Lifetime (East European Monographs, 1997). Having passed through and survived both Nazi and communist camps, Djordjevic, patriot and victim, speaks of his four lives: in pre-World War II Yugoslavia, under the swastika, under the red star, and as an »migr» to the United States. The narrative is united by the remarkable continuity of Djordjevic's voice: The author comes across as a true intellectual and a warm human being.

"Ivan Colovic, leading anthropologist and cultural critic, specialist in cultural symbols, is himself the greatest symbol of the decency, respectability, humor, and guts of a small but important group of Belgrade intellectuals. Colovic's latest works include Bordel Ratnika (Belgrade 1993), Politika simbola (Radio B92, 1997), and When I Say Newspaper ... (Samizdat FreeB92, 1999)."



Nicholas J. Miller, professor of history at Boise State University and author of Between Nation and State: Serbian Politics in Croatia (Pittsburgh, 1998).

"Chuck Sudetic's Blood and Vengeance: One Family's Story of the War in Bosnia (Norton, 1998) is the most important book written about the Yugoslav collapse to date. Following the fate of a single Bosnian family, Sudetic examines the historical, international, and psychological factors that led to the breakup of the state. Also remarkable is Loring M. Danforth's The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World (Princeton, 1997). Danforth examines Macedonian national identity from Greek and Macedonian perspectives, as well as from those of the Macedonian and Greek diasporas.

"Andrew Baruch Wachtel's Making a Nation, Breaking a Nation: Literature and Cultural Politics in Yugoslavia (Stanford, 1998) is the first study to address the important question of how culture, state policy, and national identity were related in the former Yugoslavia. He traces the progress of the Yugoslav idea through the literature of the southern Slavs as well as through the policies of Yugoslavia's various twentieth-century governments."



Tomislav Z. Longinovic, associate professor of Slavic and comparative literature and director of the Cultural Translation Project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; author of Borderline Culture (Arkansas, 1993).

"Maria Todorova, in Imagining the Balkans (Oxford, 1997), introduces 'balkanism,' a supplement to Edward Said's 'orientalism,' to account for European and American perceptions of the region as the site of perpetual bloodshed and deeply rooted ethnic hatreds. The crucial role of interference by the so-called Great Powers is accorded its proper place in Balkan tragedies past and pres ent. This is by far the best work of historiography on the region. Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution After the Cold War (Brookings, 1995), by Susan L. Woodward, is a monumental study in both scope and volume. It provides crucial economic and political background to the Yugoslav wars, as well as an international-relations dimension that is sorely lacking in the work of journalistic Žinstant experts.' According to Woodward, the key to understanding the tragedy in the Balkans is Yugoslavia's loss of strategic importance for the West after the end of the Cold War. Woodward analyzes the war's horrific events with admirable care and scholarly effort."



Stevan K. Pavlowitch, professor emeritus of history at the University of Southampton and author of The Improbable Survivor: Yugoslavia and Its Problems, 1918-1988 (Ohio State, 1988) and A History of the Balkans, 1804-1945 (Longman, 1999).

"Vesna Goldsworthy's Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (Yale, 1998) incisively analyzes Balkan archetypes in English-language literature and entertainment, exploring how Western taboos have been projected onto the region and how these representations have in turn affected the Balkans. Simon Trew's Britain, Mihailovic, and the Chetniks, 1941-42 (Macmillan, 1998) is a useful and nonpartisan monograph that traces the development and deterioration of British support for the Serbian royalist movement in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. Of more contemporary interest is South Eastern Europe 2000: A View From Serbia (Stubovi Kulture with European Movement Serbia, 1999), edited by Jelica Minic. Assessing the region's future, the contributors start with a realistic view of the potential for integration, reconstruction, and cross-border cooperation."


--Julia Mitric


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