From beloved international reporter Åsne Seierstad comes a remarkable exploration of the lives of ordinary Serbs under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic-during the dramatic events leading up to his fall, and finally in the troubled years that have followed. Seierstad traveled extensively through Serbia between 1999 and 2004, following the lives of people from across the political spectrum. Her moving and perceptive account follows nationalists, Titoists, Yugonostalgics, rock stars, fugitives, and poets. Seierstad...
From beloved international reporter Åsne Seierstad comes a remarkable exploration of the lives of ordinary Serbs under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic-during the dramatic events leading up to his fall, and finally in the troubled years that have followed. Seierstad traveled extensively through Serbia between 1999 and 2004, following the lives of people from across the political spectrum. Her moving and perceptive account follows nationalists, Titoists, Yugonostalgics, rock stars, fugitives, and poets. Seierstad brings her acclaimed attention to detail to bear on the lives of those whom she encounters in With Their Backs to the World, as she creates a kaleidoscopic portrait of a nation made up of so many different-and often conflicting-hopes, dreams, and points of view.
After covering the 1999 NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia, Norwegian journalist Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul) found herself wondering about the Serbs a "people that started one war after another, and lost them all." In 2000, she returned to explore the lives of 13 Serbians. Her account is noteworthy for casting a broad net and for her involvement in their everyday lives in the field with a farmer, in a secret studio with a journalist, on the street with a black marketeer, attending marathon services with a cleric, even performing with a rock star. Her timing was also serendipitous: in spring 2000, she witnessed the rallies that ultimately toppled Slobodan Milosevic; that October she watched thousands of protestors take over Belgrade, the parliament and the state TV station. Seierstad allows each subject his or her own voice: a stalwart Milosevic supporter longs for a new dictatorship; another claims there was "never any ethnic cleansing of Albanians"; a student activist hopes for membership in the EU. A disturbing enmity toward the U.S. and Muslims runs through many Serbs' accounts. "Great wars," Seierstad observes, "start out as folk songs and camp-fire stories, and end in genocide and bloodbaths." (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Readers familiar with Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul and A Hundred and One Days will discover the same sensitivity and intelligence in her portraits of Serbs that marked her treatment of Afghans and Iraqis in those books. Through repeated interviews and extended personal contact, she depicts 13 individuals and one family before and after the arrest of former Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Her approach is successful for several reasons: the apparent confidence she inspired in some subjects, whose loathing of NATO and the West barely exceeded the magnitude of their love for Milosevic; her ability to show how the regime's change after Milosevic's fall profoundly affected persons both ordinary and exceptional; and her skill in describing the utter strangeness of life in Serbia. As Serb rock star Rambo Amadeus (Antonio Pusic) speculates about the wave of suicides after Milosevic's ouster, "People see that Milosevic is gone and their lives are still shit." Matching this pathos is Verica, a Serb refugee from Albanian-dominated Kosovo who struggles to raise her child in Serbia proper, where she is scorned. Then there's Zoran Zivkovic, whose courage in opposing Milosevic is redeemed when he is appointed prime minister in the post-Milosevic era but who loses his first election. This powerful and sympathetic book about people not well understood beyond their homeland deserves a wide audience. For all academic and public libraries.-Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
An intrepid Norwegian journalist follows the varied fortunes of Serbs-ranging from celebrities to refugees-during and after the reign of Slobodan Milosevic. Seierstad has trod the bloody ground of Afghanistan (The Bookseller of Kabul, 2003) and Iraq (A Hundred and One Days, 2005) and here recounts her experiences in Serbia between 1999 and 2004. She tells the stories of 13 individuals and one family, virtually all of whom share two beliefs: The Serbs committed no war crimes or "ethnic cleansing"; and the United States is the cause of all their troubles. Says a Milosevic protege: "America is the source of all wickedness in the world." To Seierstad's credit, she does not accept these assertions silently; rather, she prompts her sources to elaborate and to justify. Most merely repeat what they've seen on government television-or rumors they've heard from frustrated friends. Seierstad interviewed people who varied widely on just about every human dimension-income, education, sophistication, political affiliation, celebrity. Among the latter were some media personalities, a novelist (Ana Rodic, whose Roots was a Serbian bestseller) and rock musician Antonio Pusic, who goes by "Rambo Amadeus" and describes his music as "acid-horror-funk." Seierstad went boating with him and added some tracks to one of his CDs. Among the many charms of the author's work is that her Serb contacts are all invariably glad to see her, grateful for her attention, eager to tell their stories. (Some even try to find her a husband.) Perhaps the most touching story is that of a family from Kosovo now living in a refugee center in southern Serbia. When the Kosovo Albanians arrived, bent on ethnic vengeance, the familyfled, leaving behind virtually all they had-except their photo albums and their hope. Although the during-and-after-Milosevic format in each segment grows tiresome, Seirestad's educated eye sees all that's important, and her compassionate heart beats in tandem with some poorly understood, deeply afflicted people.
Asne Seierstad has reported from such war-torn regions as Chechnya, China, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. She has received numerous awards for her journalism. She is the author of A Hundred and One Days as well as The Bookseller of Kabul, an international bestseller that has been translated into twenty-six languages. Seierstad makes her home in Norway and travels frequently to the United States.