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War Torn

War Torn

by John Marks

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From the author of the gripping Cold War thriller and New York Times Notable Book The Wall comes its suspenseful sequel, set in Berlin and the former Yugoslavia.

John Marks' first novel, The Wall, a thinking man's thriller, was compared to Graham Greene's espionage novels and, in both its depth and contemporary relevance, to Robert


From the author of the gripping Cold War thriller and New York Times Notable Book The Wall comes its suspenseful sequel, set in Berlin and the former Yugoslavia.

John Marks' first novel, The Wall, a thinking man's thriller, was compared to Graham Greene's espionage novels and, in both its depth and contemporary relevance, to Robert Stone's Damascus Gate. Now, in War Torn, Marks reveals another pivotal moment in history-through the lens of a love affair between an American journalist and a woman from the former Yugoslavia.

War Torn begins in the aftermath of the Cold War in Berlin, where a century of trauma is coming to an end and it is finally possible to speak with confidence about the future. Close by, but worlds away, the nightmare is just beginning in Mostar, where civil war is about to erupt, robbing its citizens of their homeland and obliterating everything they cherish. War Torn is a story of people caught up in war who cannot stop to make sense of it but must fight simply to survive. And of what happens to them when the dust settles, when what counted before-family, loyalty, home-no longer matters, or even exists. John Marks depicts history in the making, and its impact on two lives has implications for us all.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
A plot summary cannot convey the novel's depth and richness, for it is in large part a meditation on love and war, on how individuals and cities -- even a world -- are torn apart, then united. Arthur asks, "Why on earth should an insignificant Mediterranean backwater like Mostar be divided into East and West? It makes no sense unless something more vast and mysterious, more irrational and malevolent than human power is at stake." There are many such reflections, as Marks tries to make sense of senseless violence in the Balkans and elsewhere. —Patrick Anderson
The New York Times
As the novel builds, and the scene shifts from Berlin to Bosnia (and from romantic angst to the quest for survival), Marks artfully balances moral outrage with a quietly elegiac tone. — Dan Kaufman
Publishers Weekly
This complex, beautifully savage novel is well named, for every character in it is torn between past and present, between the promise of an adoptive country and the pull of a ruined homeland. Former U.S. News Berlin bureau chief Marks (The Wall) posits that the collapse of communism ("the greatest hangover of the twentieth century") in 1989 was but a prelude to yet another European apocalypse ("There was always this bloody shadow, this Bosnia.... The entire world is waiting to turn inside out") and illustrates his thesis in harrowing fashion. Arthur Cape, a Texan journalist working for a flagging American news magazine, is at a Halloween party in Berlin in the mid-1990s when a ghost from his past makes an appearance. George Markovic, an ailing war profiteer who helped Arthur first settle into Berlin at unification, now comes bearing news of Arthur's lost Bosnian love, Marta Mehmedovic, whom Arthur tried to save three years earlier after she followed her husband and son home to Mostar, a bitterly divided city in Bosnia. Galvanized, Arthur immediately plunges into a Balkan free-fire zone full of demons under different flags ("Arthur asked them who they were, and a host of cries rang out. They were Yugoslavs. They had fought the Germans. They had loved Tito. They were Croats, Muslims, Serbs, Jews and Italians. Who cared?"), searching for Marta, who has been trying to salvage the remains of her family, despite her sister's dangerous dalliance with a local warlord. The language here is deliberately biblical, as Marks repeatedly intones the end of history and Augustine's vision ("The division of a city is a form of living death experienced by only a few places on this earth. Mostar and Berlin are such cities.... It is our endless Augustinian sickness, the City of God against the City of Flesh"). Marks's rendering of the period pulls no punches (paramilitaries reign supreme, the U.N. an impotent afterthought), and every principal is wrenched between flickering and insubstantial poles. (Nov. 10) Forecast: Marks's subject is the war in the Balkans, but the general state of chaos he evokes also reflects and illuminates current world events. Like a latter-day Herman Wouk or Irwin Shaw, he writes with unabashed romanticism and passionate intensity, and should attract readers of popular as well as literary fiction. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This book, called savagely beautiful by some, reminiscent of Graham Greene by others, is a piece of literature that should be read. It is literate, philosophical, and moving as well as being a page-turning thriller. Set against the backdrop of the Bosnian tragedy, this tale does more than thrill. Texan Arthur Cape is trying to find a lost love, Marta, a Bosnian Muslim woman whose husband took her from Arthur and back to Mostar three years before, after the Berlin Wall fell. Love proves a strong motivation and Arthur Cape plunges into the madness of Bosnia hoping to save Marta. It is a hellish scene and everyone is torn by this war—hence the title's aptness. The world for these people was also torn away from them and nothing was as it had been before, not family, not city, not even themselves. They must become something else in order to fight to survive. It is also about the divided lives that such conflict and its aftermath cause. As a Berlin correspondent for Sense magazine, Cape saw firsthand how lives were divided as cruelly as the city itself. Now, slogging through the political and emotional divisions that torture Bosnia and its people, Cape can see things in a different way than most. Marks was the Berlin Bureau Chief for US News and World Report and soaked up enough detail while on that assignment to deliver a novel that places the reader solidly in the middle of the scene. He shows everyone and every institution in the clearest and, perhaps, harshest light. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2003, Penguin, Riverhead, 374p., Ages 17 to adult.
—Joseph DeMarco
Library Journal
Appointed to his first staff job as a reporter for Sense magazine, Arthur Cape lands in Berlin just two weeks before German unification. A chance encounter leads him to Marta Mehmedovic and the love of his life. Marta teaches him a thing or two about both Berlin and Yugoslavia, her recently disintegrated homeland, before her husband drags her and their son back to Mostar-a bad move, for soon that city is tragically shattered by partisan fighting. Arthur gets conflicting information-Marta is dead; no, she's alive but her son is dead-before finally heading to Mostar himself to rescue her. Marks (The Wall), a journalist who served as Berlin bureau chief for U.S. News and World Report at the time of unification and also visited Mostar, has written a heartfelt and engrossing narrative that reads like a thriller but carries a great deal more significance. He's excellent at both the heartrending details of individual human tragedy and the larger considerations of what it takes to tear a city apart-and make it whole again. Writing about war can be tricky-is one exploiting human suffering?-but Marks instead illuminates. And he earns the note of hope at the end. Highly recommended.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.01(d)

Meet the Author

The former bureau chief of U.S. News & World Report in Berlin, where he lived for five years, John Marks is now a producer for 60 Minutes. He has written for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications, and is the author of the novel The Wall.

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