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The Fracture Zone: My Return to the Balkans
A True Portrait of One of the World's Most Chaotic and Beautiful Regions That Explains Why Violence Has Always Occurred There--And Why It May Continue For Years To ComeThe vast and mountainous area that makes up the Balkans is rife with discord, both cultural and topographical. And, as Simon Winchester superbly demonstrates in this intimate portrait of the region, much of the political strife of the past century can be traced to its inherent contrasts. With the aid of a guide and linguist, Winchester traveled deep into the region's most troublesome areas--including Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, and Turkey--just as the war was tearing these countries apart. The result is a book not just about war but also about how war affects the living. Both timeless and current, The Fracture Zone goes behind the headlines to offer a true picture of a region that has always been on the brink. Winchester's remarkable journey puts all the elements together--the faults, the fractures, and the chaos--to make sense out of a seemingly senseless place.
An Enlightening Guide to a Shattered and Benighted Land
By Bay Gibbons
- February 23, 2002
For a thousand years the Balkan peninsula has been the situs of vast cultural upheavals -- the sensibilities and hatreds of the Slavic peoples pushed and pulled and molded by the East and West, by Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Islam, Communism and Nazism. The result is a tragic legacy of manipulation, of hatred, of violence and of death.Simon Winchester proves himself the perfect guide to this shattered and tragic realm. He is part History Professor, part Philosopher but always a masterful Storyteller. With this and his previous books (especially "The Professor and the Madman") he proves himself to be one of the most eloquent and gripping narrative writers working today. Some other thoughts:1. This book ought to be required reading for every American and a warning about the horrible consequences of hate. One of the greatest tragedies of the Balkan conflict is that, as Winchester puts it, "almost all the people who have been so horribly at odds with one another are all, in... read more
The Balkans for beginners
By heather tyler
- October 19, 2000
Veteran journalist Simon Winchester retraces his steps through the Balkans 20 years after a brief vacation there, to rediscover a region where the geography is as dizzying as the political and ethnic agendas. His journey from Vienna to Istanbul encompasses the crisis in Kosovo and in a series of astute vignettes, Winchester meets some of the major players and the victims. All around him is a simmering cauldron of hatred which has spilled blood yet again and the issues provoke more questions than can ever be answered. Winchester has questions of his own, but he is unable to answer them in any depth. But then, most Westerners have also had trouble analysing the Balkan history of bloodshed. He is only skimming the surface here and for guidance refers to the great works of Nobel prize winner Ivo Andric, whose book Bridge On The Drina remains a classic text to understanding the background of Balkan turmoil. Unfortunately, Winchester departs Kosovo in June 1999, just after NATO enters the... read more
Between a romp and a hard place
By hugh riminton
- March 2, 2000
The clue to this book is in the comments right at the end. Simon Winchester takes a stab at the books of "terrible dullness and labyrinthine sobriety" that make up most that get written about the Balkans. Instead he takes us on a romp. His journey from Vienna to Istanbul spans the period of NATO's bombardment over Kosovo last year. He snatches at images and characters along the way. He is good at it. He has an eye for eccentrics and characters and the contradictions that constantly spring out the tortured landscape around him. It is a good read. His trip into Pristina ahead of the KFOR troops is vivid stuff, though he leaves too soon to continue his journey east. He is more generous to the Serbs than most daily news reports, simply because he acknowledges a wider and longer context.His attempt to explain WHY the Serbs responded with such (at times) unspeakable violence in Kosovo is clumsy and ill thought out. But this is not intended to be serious history,... read more
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