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

ISBN: 0393034968

ISBN13: 9780393034967

The Balkan Express : Fragments from the Other Side of War

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. In a series of beautiful, impassioned essays, Croatian journalist and feminist Drakulic provides a very real and human side to the Balkans war and shows how the conflict has affected her closest...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

depressing but helpful

This book was published in 1993. This makes it hard to read, since several times Drakulic talks about the war being "almost over". When one knows that the worst in the former Yugoslavia was yet to come this makes this depressing book even more depressing. But, it's worth reading to get an inside account of how the war in Yugoslavia seemed to a smart, cosmopolitan reporter. It's not a history of the conflict nor an analytic account of it. You'll not fully understand the war or why it happend by reading this book. But, you'll understand the people to a greater degree. Drakulic is a very sympathetic writer who portrays her subjects (including herself) in a very humane way at a time when it was all to easy to forget the humanity of others. It's worth reading for that alone.

The intimacies of war

THE BALKAN EXPRESS: FRAGMENTS FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF WAR by Slavenka Drakulic, is a book of short essays that are memoirs and written illustrations of what it is like to find the country in which you live divided by war. Under Drakulic's hand, this stops being a political abstraction of battling ideas (pan-Slavism vs. independent nation states), but a physical and psychological hardship of the intimate and emotionally scarring, deadly violence and nihilistic realities of war in one's own neighborhood. While this book -- published in the nid 1990s, with essays dating from July 1991 to January 1994, through the complete Croatian war of secession and the beginning and continuation of the war in Bosnia that killed 200,000 and displaced millions -- is somewhat dated for us now that we know of the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina (and the eventual war in Kosovo), the timelessness of the ideas she expresses about war seems as if it would always be salient, especially now as the United States has soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. Drakulic, who also wrote Cafe Europa and S: A Novel about the Balkans, details the outcomes of war, sometimes unexpected, sometimes not. While she mentions violent and ghastly images of war (a young couple of lovers, a Serb and a Bosnian, who have obtained permission to leave Sarajevo for Belgrade are shot in the no-man's land outside the city on their officially permitted leave-taking, the bodies left in the grass for days), she dwells more on the psychological understanding of war in one's own country, one's own city, one's own neighborhood. ("My friend in Paris who moved there when she was 10 years old, at the end of the Algerian war, told me that her teacher had asked her why, even after years of living in France, she walked down a street zig-zag. This is how you walk to avoid a bullet, she explained to her teacher. And this is what the generation of children who survived a war in Croatia will do, walk zig-zag and run to hide in cellars at the sound of aeroplane.") Drakulic notices that war became real to her in small, personal moments of realization, such as when she sent her college-age daughter from Zagreb to live in Canada with her Serbian father, and saw that her daughter was taking clothes for all year round and her worn, stuffed, childhood stuffed-animal companion, in case she couldn't come back. She sees how she herself judges a refugee friend negatively for wearing fancy shoes and makeup, realizing that she has an underlying belief that a refugee should have no joy. She notes how the war follows refugees wherever they go; the war follows her to Slovenia, a famous Croatian actress to New York and her friends to Paris in their thinking and values. She writes about the shock she feels when she meets a young man, a soldier from Vukovar, in Zagreb after the city fell to the Serbs, who was so young, she can't get past what he's been through for his age.

Powerful, Compelling and Shocking!

This book frightened me but also made me aware of the dangers of saying that we live in a safe world. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am an avid reader of the war in the Balkans and have found only one other book that so graphically depicts the atrocities and harsh realities of modern-day war. Beautifully written and easy for the layman to understand.

Living War

I read this book while studying the Balkans in school and shortly after September 11th. The book is about living war, a concept that is impossible to understand until one has been in a war like situation or has read this book. While I know that I can never say I felt as much pain as she did, I do have a better understanding of what it must have been like for her after 911 and after reading this book. It is an enjoyable read with the ability to touch on deep subjects without being too complex.


I could not put this book down. The author shares, almost in diary form, her insights as the Serb-Croatian war ripped apart her country in the early 1990's. After reading this book,one begins to understand the impact that war had on those who lived that war. While so many books about war describe carnage and attrocities, this book shares the impact that war has on the psyche and hearts of "every day" people making clear that not all wounds in war are to the body. The book reads like well written fiction. Unfortunately, it is not. I can't adequately describe this book. READ IT.
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