THE TENTH CIRCLE OF HELL: A Memoir of Life in the Death Camps of Bosnia by Rezak Hukanovi
Kirkus Star

THE TENTH CIRCLE OF HELL: A Memoir of Life in the Death Camps of Bosnia

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If you read but one book about the wars in the former Yugoslavia, it should be Hukanovi's harrowing memoir of time spent in the death camps of Bosnia. For those who have found themselves growing unresponsive to the media barrage about the suffering in Bosnia, this is a sure, if painful, antidote. Hukanovi, a Bosnian Muslim journalist from Prijedor, gives us an unforgettable and often unbearable account of his stay in two of the notorious Bosnian Serb camps--Omarska and Manjaa. That Hukanovi has chosen to tell his story in the form of a third-person narrative strengthens its power as both a personal and a collective memoir The unfolding tragedy of ""Djemo"" and his family rapidly expands to include his fellow prisoners and their communal suffering Hukanovi movingly conveys the camaraderie born of this hell: ""Would anyone understand the tragedy of these men, linked by fate to this place? Sorrow had darkened their visages and twisted their faces. . . . All the prisoners desperately wanted was to forget all the horror, but the angel of death's carelessness had marked them as witnesses."" Hukanovi describes sickening acts of violence, ranging from repeated bludgeoning of prisoners to mutilation, torture, and murder. But the savagery and evil of the perpetrators are related in the context of the more reflective tone of Hukanovi's narrative and the acts of kindness that he witnesses. Prisoners look after one another, family members are prepared to sacrifice for one another, and sometimes guards and neighbors aid the victims, at great risk to themselves. Hukanovi does not provide ""answers"" to questions that present themselves (i.e., what accounts for the ""chameleonlike transformation of former friends and acquaintances as they turned into crazed servants of the new authority?""). He does not broach the problems of retribution and justice. Thanks to his courageous memoir, however, readers will approach such questions with fresh, bitter, and necessary light.

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 1996
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: New Republic/Basic