A True Portrait of One of the World's Most Chaotic and Beautiful Regions That Explains Why Violence Has Always Occurred There--And Why It May Continue For Years To Come
The vast and mountainous area that makes up the Balkans is rife with discord, both cultural and topographical. And, as Simon Winchester superbly demonstrates in this intimate portrait of the region, much of the political strife of the past century can be traced to its inherent contrasts. With the aid of a guide and linguist, Winchester traveled deep into the region's most troublesome areas--including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey--just as the war was tearing these countries apart. The result is a book not just about war but also about how war affects the living. Both timeless and current, The Fracture Zone goes behind the headlines to offer a true picture of a region that has always been on the brink. Winchester's remarkable journey puts all the elements together--the faults, the fractures, and the chaos--to make sense out of a seemingly senseless place.
As NATO planes began to atttack Belgrade last March, British journalist Winchester (The Professor and the Madman) visited the Kosovar refugee camps in Macedonia, where he was shocked by the "Bruegel-scene of mass misery" that confronted him: international aid workers had not yet organized proper food and sanitation for the thousands of people crammed into a muddy field surrounded by Macedonian police. The sight provoked Winchester to visit as much of the Balkans as he could, in hope of grasping the complexities that had led to the debacle. Starting out from Vienna, he continued into Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, where he found that nationalist citizens still refer to the Muslim Kosovars as "Turks." Although he sets his travels against the history of the BalkansAfrom the battles of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires through the Croatian massacre of Jews, Serbs, Gypsies and homosexuals during WWII to the recent war in KosovoAhis conclusions are too pat to make his analysis significant. Taking a fatalistic attitude, he views the region's problems as little more than the fruit of "classic Balkan hatreds, ancient and modern." Still, Winchester's extensive interviews make his book notable. Almost every page contains the reflections of ordinary citizens, who reveal to Winchester their hatreds, their troubles and their hopes, lending richness and authenticity to his account. His unsentimental descriptions of the area's destroyed mosques, burned houses and virulent graffiti serve as a poignant reminder that the effects of war last long after the planes are gone.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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October 15, 2000
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