Madness Visible: A Memoir of War

Overview

"As a reporter for The Times of London, Janine di Giovanni found herself a close witness to the cycles of violence and vengeance in cities and villages, in refugee camps, in slapped-together hospitals, and in the homes of citizens under siege. She begins her story in May 1999 in Kosovo. The world believes the Balkan wars are over, but violence persists. She follows the arc of the war from its earliest days through the staggering experience of the people who endured it: soldiers numbed by - and inured to - the atrocities they commit, women driven
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Overview

"As a reporter for The Times of London, Janine di Giovanni found herself a close witness to the cycles of violence and vengeance in cities and villages, in refugee camps, in slapped-together hospitals, and in the homes of citizens under siege. She begins her story in May 1999 in Kosovo. The world believes the Balkan wars are over, but violence persists. She follows the arc of the war from its earliest days through the staggering experience of the people who endured it: soldiers numbed by - and inured to - the atrocities they commit, women driven to despair by their life in paramilitary rape camps, civilians (di Giovanni among them) caught in bombing raids of uncertain origin, babies murdered in hate-induced rage." "She searches for the motives of the leaders who created this hell: Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, and such crucial though less well-known figures as Nikola Koljevic, who directed the siege - and accomplished the destruction - of Sarajevo, the city he claimed to love." Di Giovanni's story raises profoundly challenging questions: What can cause neighbors who have lived peacefully side by side for centuries to turn against one another with mindless brutality? What becomes of survivors when the fabric of an age-old community is destroyed? How should other governments react to mass murder in a neighboring country?
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Editorial Reviews

Margaret Van Dagens
This is di Giovanni's one war, and she passionately documents its inhumanity.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
"It is only possible to love one war," writes di Giovanni in this devastating memoir of the Balkans, quoting another intrepid war journalist, Martha Gellhorn. For Gellhorn, it was the Spanish Civil War; for di Giovanni, it's the series of conflicts that, since 1991, have consumed the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Expanded from a Vanity Fair article, this book presents a harrowing firsthand account of a region's spiral into madness. Di Giovanni, a senior foreign correspondent for The Times (London), was there almost from the beginning: she shuddered through the first icy winter of the Sarajevo siege (the longest in modern history); she sipped tea with Arkan, the dreaded leader of the ethnic-cleansing paramilitary Tigers; she stood shoulder to shoulder with Serb revolutionaries on "Day One" of the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic. The book deals primarily with di Giovanni's experiences covering the most recent war-1999's conflict in Kosovo-but it moves through time from the initial dissolution of Yugoslavia to the most recent, guardedly optimistic attempts at reconstruction. Di Giovanni provides ample historical context to the fighting (readers seeking to understand the separatist impulse of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church or Milosevic's "mother complex" have plenty of evidence to play with), but eventually, the names and dates of massacres and treaties pale next to the spectacle of pure horror: a dog trotting by with a human hand in its mouth; a crazed woman lying naked in full view of snipers, begging to be shot. Di Giovanni has written a tragic book that vividly memorializes the millions who suffered in the name of religion, nationality and ego. Map not seen by PW. Agent, Kim Witherspoon. (Nov. 17) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
London Times correspondent di Giovanni (The Quick and the Dead: Under Siege in Sarajevo) has authored a standout among the many accounts of war in former Yugoslavia. Her gripping narrative of the 1999 war in Kosovo, NATO's campaign against Serbia, and the ouster of Milosevic offers an unbiased view of the enormous suffering of Yugoslav Albanians and Serbs following the genocidal rage of the Belgrade regime against the Kosovo Liberation Army's (KLA) drive for an independent Kosovo. Her work moves swiftly from behind KLA lines to the depredations of Serb militias in Kosovo, NATO's bombing of Belgrade, Milosevic's ouster, and the war's impact on Serb-inhabited parts of Bosnia. The book's strength, however, lies less in its flow than in its consistent depiction of evil, sacrifice, and pathos among individuals involved in the war as well as interviews with emigre KLA fighters, the infamous Serb criminal Arkan, and the "Iron Lady" of Bosnian Serbs, Biljana Plavsic. If the book has a weakness, it is the relative neglect of the diplomatic imbroglio behind the fighting. This exciting work is highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Zachary T. Irwin, Sch. of Humanities & Social Science, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A searing chronicle of a decade’s worth of ethnocide in the former Yugoslavia. British journalist di Giovanni, a globetrotting senior correspondent for the London Times and something of a war junkie, seems to have been in every trench and devastated village from the Slovenian border to Albania. The tales she tells would do Martha Gellhorn proud, though they do not make for easy reading: a teenaged Kosovar boy is blown to bits by an errant NATO bomb, his existence marked only by a mound of cigarette butts where he stood watch; a young woman, likened by one of her friends to Cleopatra, is cut down by a random spray of Serbian machine-gun fire as she sips a cappuccino; another young woman is dragged away and raped by Milosevic’s soldiers, who tell her, "You Albanian women are strong. . . . You’re so strong that you can have sex with the entire Serb Army"; whole populations are uprooted, chased from their ancestral homes thanks to accidents of birth and intermarriage. Di Giovanni does a superb job of sorting out the tangled politics of the Balkans, which threw her distinguished predecessor Dame Rebecca West for a loop. She observes, for instance, that just about everyone involved in the conflicts among Bosnians, Croats, Montenegrins, Serbs, Albanians, and Macedonians has blood on his (or her) hands; that "while the Serbs and Bosnians never tried to be anything but what they were, the Croats hid behind a faux and decrepit Habsburg mantle," and that had Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman not died, "it is certain he would be sitting alongside his old friend Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague Court"; that some of the blame for the ten-year-long Balkan slaughter at the door of Western leaders. And, shegrimly concludes, although the people of the former Yugoslavia are aware and intelligent, there’s no guarantee that the violence will not break out again at any time: "I just don’t know if they will get past it." Wholly memorable, entirely unsettling: one of the best pieces of reportage to come from the Balkan abattoir. Agent: Kim Witherspoon
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375410734
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/11/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 286
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

Janine di Giovanni is a senior foreign correspondent for The Times of London and a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. She has won Granada Television’s Foreign Correspondent of the Year Award, the National Magazine Award issued by the American Society of Magazine Editors, and two Amnesty International Media Awards for human rights reporting. Author of Against the Stranger: Lives in Occupied Territory and The Quick and the Dead: Under Siege in Sarajevo, she also wrote the introduction to Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s View of Sarajevo. Born in the United States, she received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has lived in London since 1985. She is married to the French journalist Bruno Girodon.
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