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Center for Balkan Development
2 CLOCK TOWER PLACE #510
MAYNARD, MA 07154
Tel: 978-461-0909
Fax: 978-461-2552
[email protected]
www.balkandevelopment.org

CBD Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1, December, 2005
<back to table of contents>

Book Reviews



The River Runs Salt, Runs Sweet:
A Memoir of Visegrad, Bosnia
By Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic
Review by: Susan O’Neill

   

This memoir of a Bosnian girl who comes of age during the disintegration of Yugoslavia is an important piece of literature in the tradition of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, and When Heaven and Earth Changed Places.

Through Jasmina’s eyes, we see not only the loss and horror of war, we also feel the spirit of cooperation fostered by it. We watch children who grew up as friends turn away from each other to take sides based on hostilities perpetrated long before they were born. We view both the Serbs and the UN peacekeeping forces as obstacles in a very real human “video game.” We see the frustration of those who must deal with unnecessary bureaucracy in order to secure necessary help and care. We witness wartime medical care at its most barbaric, and are given rare insight into the human ability to survive.

The River Runs Salt, Runs Sweet is an excellent depiction of an ordinary life blown apart by political and cultural violence. This is history at ground level, immediate and affecting. It is a clear-eyed look into the worst, and the best, of human nature. Teenagers will relate to it because of the youth of the narrator, but readers of all ages will gain a fresh, insider perspective into the surprisingly familiar culture and baffling
political morass that was the dying
Yugoslavia.

Aftermath: Bosnia’s Long Road to Peace
By Sara Terry with
afterword by Lawrence Weschler
Review from Publishers Weekly,
October 2005

   

The horrors of the Bosnian war have been crowded out by new horrors in new places. But while the attention of the rest of the world has moved on, Bosnia’s people have been left with the task of not only rebuilding a nation from scratch but also of coming to terms with the war’s legacy—the identification of the dead and the search for justice.

Terry’s camera documents this grim story’s human aspect with rich detail. In lush, vividly colored images, Terry assembles a panorama of a society coming to terms with overwhelming trauma. The subjects range from the blurred face of a schoolgirl giggling on a bus, to a pair of melancholy wheelchair-bound basketball players who were crippled during the war, to the stomach-turning process of identifying the dead. One quietly devastating image shows a forensic anthropologist collapsed into a chair in 2000, exhausted from cleaning the corpse of someone who was “ethnically cleansed.” Despite such dark images, what emerges most strongly from the collection is the sense that “life goes on no matter what, for better or for worse,” as Lawrence Weschler notes in his afterword. By showing us this persistence, Terry’s book reaffirms photography’s crucial role as witness and spur to conscience.

This Was Not Our War: Bosnian Women Reclaiming the Peace
By Swanee Hunt

   

This Was Not Our War shares first-person accounts of twenty-six Bosnian women who are reconstructing their society following years of devastating warfare. They are from all parts of Bosnia and represent the full range of ethnic traditions and mixed heritages. Their ages spread across sixty years, and their wealth ranges from expensive jewels to a few chickens. For all their differences, they have this much in common: all survived the war with enough emotional strength to work toward rebuilding their country.

Reflecting on the causes of the war, they vehemently reject the idea that age-old ethnic hatred made the war inevitable. The women share their reactions to the Dayton Accords, the end of hostilities, and international relief efforts. While they are candid about the difficulties they face, they are committed to rebuilding Bosnia based on ideals of truth, justice, and a common humanity encompassing those of all faiths and ethnicities.

“Replacing tyranny with justice, healing deep scars, exchanging hatred for hope—the women in This Was Not Our War teach us how.”
President William Jefferson Clinton  

Their courage and fortitude are inspirational. Their wisdom—along with the insights Hunt has garnered through her work with women leaders in conflicts around the world—is instructive for anyone who cares about stopping deadly conflict.


 

Pictures Without Borders: Bosnia Revisited
Photographs and Essays by Steve Horn

   

More than thirty years ago, Steve Horn traveled through Bosnia in a Volkswagen Van, which was both home-on-the-road as well as a mobile darkroom. His images from that first trip capture the innocence of children in a landscape of peace, the conviviality of the culture and the rich architectural heritage of the Balkans. When he returned to Bosnia in 2003, it was to a country recovering from all the tragedy of war. This time, it was the spirit and the resilience of the people that compelled Horn’s photographic attention, as well as the immense losses they had suffered. In some cases, he was able to find the same people he had captured on film as children thirty-three year earlier.

“These extraordinary photographs tell the story of Bosnia’s tragedy and slow recovery better than any written record. Steve Horn’s own sensitive narrative – and his encounters with people he had photographed thirty years earlier – make this book unique in the growing literature on Bosnia.”
Richard Holbrooke  

Order from your favorite bookstore or order a signed copy- please send check for $ 33.00 shipping included ($ 35.31 in Washington State) payable to Steve Horn at P.O. Box 460, Lopez WA. 98261
www.pictureswithoutborders.com