Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War

Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War

by Peter Maass
     
 

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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Peter Maass went to the Balkans as a reporter at the height of the nightmarish war there, but this book is not traditional war reportage. Maass examines how an ordinary Serb could wake up one morning and shoot his neighbor, once a friend—then rape that neighbor's wife. He conveys the desperation that makes a Muslim

Overview

Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Peter Maass went to the Balkans as a reporter at the height of the nightmarish war there, but this book is not traditional war reportage. Maass examines how an ordinary Serb could wake up one morning and shoot his neighbor, once a friend—then rape that neighbor's wife. He conveys the desperation that makes a Muslim beg the United States to bomb his own city in order to end the misery. And Maass does not falter at the spectacle of U.N. soldiers shining searchlights on fleeing refugees—who are promptly gunned down by snipers waiting in the darkness. Love Thy Neighbor gives us an unflinching vision of a late-20th-century hell that is also a scathing inquiry into the worst extremes of human nature. Like Michael Herr's Dispatches (also available in Vintage paperback), it is an utterly gripping book that will move and instruct readers for years to come.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the definitive accounts of Bosnia's fin de siècle descent into madness"
        —The Cleveland Plain Dealer).

"Moving and morally compelling.... [A] strikingly personal and passionate account of the war by...a reporter who got closer to the action and the suffering than any diplomat, policy maker or academic.... Maass lets his eye for the arresting detail and his conscience be his guides. The result is a gripping journey through a hellish war, with pit stops to meet some of the victims and their executioners. It is a hair-raising, stomach-churning and, ultimately, consciousness-raising ride, and one that will force readers to examine their own values and those of the Western powers who appeased aggressors while a quarter of a million people died horrible deaths.... Throughout the book, Maass examines two themes: first how can human beings be so monstrous to one another or stand by when others are brutalized, and second, how could Western powers, including the United States, fail to stop aggression and appease the worst war criminals in Europe."
        —The Boston Globe

"Angry, stinging, profanely eloquent and often painful.... What Mr. Maass gives us in short is a view of ethnic cleansing in all of its cruelty, its absurd detail, its self-justification, its dehumanization of the other. Love Thy Neighbor will take its place among the classics of an unfortunate genre: the portrayal of humankind at its worst."
        —The New York Times

"Maass' portrait of human nature at its worst is powerfully emotional.... Maass insistently and with compelling reasons recasts the [Serb and Muslim] choices as ones any one of us might make, given the proper demagogue.... Such ominous reflections elevate this book beyond the notes of a seasoned reporter to the plane of a more universal examination of the narrow self-interest that can encourage, or ignore, the savagery of which we are capable. Maass' graphic demonstration of this reality is rendered all the more stark in light of his portrayal of the generosity and desire for meaning in the face of brutality's victims."
—John C. Hawley, Santa Clara University, The San Francisco Chronicle

Chris William Erdman
...[H]ad I not read [Love Thy Neighbor], conversations like this would have kept me in the dark, morally and spiritually inattentive to the power of propaganda and self-delusion. —Books & Culture: A Christian Review
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist's remarkably penetrating and unapologetically opinionated account of the war in Bosnia and how it changed the way he perceives himself and humankind. Enough time has elapsed for a steady stream of journalistic accounts of fighting in the former Yugoslavia to have appeared. The Washington Post's Maass offers an unusual and striking addition to this group. More than just a recounting of the Bosnian horrors that are by now familiar—the wretched scenes from concentration camps, the misery in hospitals, the terror of sniper fire, slow starvation, war profiteering—Maass's work is profoundly introspective and honest. While the reader senses these qualities throughout the book, it is only in the final pages that the author spells out the way the war has changed him. Describing his vague sense of Jewishness (his family celebrated Christmas and sent him to an Episcopal school) and his complacency about his religious identity, Maass eloquently captures the personal, national, and universal implications of this brutal civil war: "I am now more aware of what being a Jew can mean. I learned this from the Muslims of Bosnia...Muslims versus Christians, Jews versus non-Jews, whites versus blacks, poor versus rich—there are so many seams along which a society can be torn apart by the manipulators." Maass has no doubts about the identity of the "manipulators" (Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic) and the "appeasers" (the United Nations and its representative Lord Owen, and Western leaders). His attacks on them are scathing and deeply bitter. Maass's heroes are the American diplomats who resigned over the government's inaction and hypocrisy, his fellowjournalists, and the citizens and representatives of Bosnia. Unfortunately, he leaves Croatia and its dubious president, Franjo Tudjman, out of the picture. By doing so, Maass oversimplifies the situation, reducing it to a Serb-Muslim conflict and ignoring Croatian warmongering. A provocative meditation on appeasement and isolation in the face of evil.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679763895
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1997
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
258,372
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

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