With the Bosnian war several years behind us, there has been a spate of books by journalists and diplomats. Hearts Grown...


HEARTS GROWN BRUTAL: Sagas of Sarajevo

With the Bosnian war several years behind us, there has been a spate of books by journalists and diplomats. Hearts Grown Brutal stands out among them. For the general reader seeking insightful, eloquent journalism as well as the historical background necessary for understanding Yugoslavia, Cohen's book is essential reading. Cohen's is an ambitious approachh, but the vast and complex canvas he paints more accurately reflects the tangled reality of Yugoslavia's history than a more narrowly focused account might. Because Cohen, who was the New York Times's Balkan bureau chief in 1994--95, also saw in his Bosnian experience the ""whole lurid cast of the 20th century tragedy,"" his book is infused with reflections on Yugoslavia's destruction and the end of our century. This theme is taken up in Book 1 (""The Lost Century""), the tragic story of Sead Mehmedovic's search for his father, a Muslim who served in the Croatian fascist regimebreak and was presumed dead, but had secretly emigrated to Turkey. This haunting tale of loss and betrayal serves as a fitting prelude to the remainder of the book, which more directly deals with the everyday straggle of families during the Bosnian War. Cohen follows three extended families, all of mixed ethnic background, during their break-up and destruction. Like Yugoslavia, they can never be whole again. Through them he contemplates the issue at the heart of the conflict: the nationalist leaders' fatal insistence on immaculate ethnic borders and identities in a region where ""the very notion of ethnic homogeneity had been nullified by centuries of miscegenation, migration, and religious conversion."" In a tone simultaneously melancholy and scathing, Cohen describes the evil and absurdity of leaders like Milosevic (""a craven, clever bully""), Tudjman (with his ""macabre dance""), Karadzic, and the nationalist venom they incited. The West--the US and the UN in particular--Cohen accuses of moral cowardice and abetting the Bosnian tragedy. A piercing study of the facts and myths that led to the destruction of multiethnic Yugoslav communities.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0812991788

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998