SARAJEVO, EXODUS OF A CITY

This firsthand account of the war in Bosnia is made all the more compelling by the tone, at once lyrical and detached, taken by its author. Karahasan concentrates on the city of Sarajevo and the tragedy that such a cosmopolitan, multicultural city should be forced to disband, its vibrant subcultures trickling out under pressure of Serbian guns. As dean of the Academy of Theatrical Arts at the University of Sarajevo, the author experienced the siege and shelling of his city. Yet he has chosen not to write a conventional memoir of the horrors of war. In fact, throughout this book (his first available in English), he writes about the futility of offering conventional witness and the inability or unwillingness of the West to understand or pay attention to the suffering of Bosnia. Instead, he analyzes the city itself, ``enclosed and isolated from the world, so to speak, cut off from everything external and turned wholly toward itself.'' He sees the city's layout and all of its constituent elements—architecture, demographics, even cuisine—as a series of tensions between openness and closure, an interplay of opposition and reflection, of internal and external. He also offers an impassioned essay on the ``misuse'' of literature to promote racial hatred and fuel the atrocities such as those committed against the Bosnian people. But the book is, predictably, most compelling when it shows the people of Sarajevo trying to maintain some shred of normalcy while the city is vivisected by the Serbs. Karahasan coolly reports on how his theater students react to the disruption of their studies, how he is prevented from attending a founding meeting of the Bosnian PEN Center. The book closes with a moving exchange of letters between Karahasan, who is in exile in Austria, and his wife in Sarajevo, followed by a typically incisive essay by Slavenka Drakuli (The Balkan Express), comparing Karahasan's tone to that of Primo Levi in Survival in Auschwitz. An excellent addition to the growing shelf of books on the ravaging of Bosnia.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 1-56836-057-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kodansha

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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