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THE SUITCASE by Julie Mertus

THE SUITCASE

Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia

By Julie Mertus (Editor) , Jasmina Tesanovic (Editor)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-520-20458-1
Publisher: Univ. of California

 A moving collection of writings that bring to life the personal tragedies behind the familiar image of refugees fleeing along the roads of Bosnia, their belongings held in a single suitcase or plastic bag. Poems, stories, and other narratives by men, women, and children who have been driven from their homes in Bosnia and Croatia have been gathered together in an attempt to communicate the raw reality of life as a refugee, ``the bad dream,'' as one says, ``that won't go away.'' Many entries are first-time efforts to put powerful emotions into words. Aside from relating the specifics of the horrendous ordeals these people have suffered, the writings forcefully convey the character and texture of these emotions. For instance, we hear repeatedly how songs from their homeland flood the refugees with memories of cafes and friends. Indeed, many speak of their homeland with the warmth and feeling usually reserved for individuals; Bosnia and various towns are mourned and glorified. The Suitcase lays special emphasis on the plight of women refugees, many of whom have been raped, almost all of whom have lost family. The majority of the pieces here are by women; several essays contributed by human rights activists set the experience of these refugees, many of whom are Muslims, within the larger contexts of Muslim women refugees elsewhere and the overall international refugee situation. One of the strongest and most haunting pieces is by the novelist and essayist Dubravka Ugresic, who addresses not women's issues per se but the universal feelings of exile. Summing up the agony shared by the often less eloquent refugees, Ugresic poignantly comments on the singular agony of civil war (enemies speaking the same language): ``And now I think I know that language is our punishment, a pledge of remembering and forgetting at the same time, a pledge of our eternal, painful, and exhausting relationship.'' (23 b&w photos, 1 map, not seen)