The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia

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This is a privileged glimpse of the former Yugoslavia from within, one that gets behind journalistic accounts to present the intimate hatreds, prejudices, aspirations, and fears of its citizens.  Brian Hall spent the spring and summer of 1991 traveling through Yugoslavia, even as the nation was  crumbling in his footsteps.  Having arrived a week after the catalytic May 2 massacre at Borovo Selo, he watched as political solutions were abandoned with dizzying speed, and as Yugoslavia’s various ethnicities, which had managed to reach a point of tolerant coexistence, tipped into the violence of civil war.

Hall, one of the last foreigners to travel unhindered through the region, has captured the voices of both the prominent and the unknown, from Serbian demagogue Slobodan Milosevic and Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic to a wide variety of everyday Serbs, Croats, and Muslims: “real people, likeable people,” as he says, who have been pushed by rumor and propaganda into carrying out one of the most intense and brutal ethnic conflicts in world history.  At the same time, he provides the indispensable historical background, showing how the country called Yugoslavia was cobbled together after World War I, tracing the “ethnic cleansing” practices that have marked the area for centuries, and explaining why every attempt at political compromise has met with such suspicion and resistance.

Reviews

“The most moving book on former Yugoslavia that I have read.  [Hall] never lapses into didacticism or value judgments about Balkan predilections for blood-feuds.  Instead he listens, describes, and takes stock of what he has seen and heard.”  —The Times (London)

“Intelligent, witty, and full of precious details . . . A guide to the minds of the peoples of what was once Yugoslavia.”  —The New York Times

“A tragic portrait . . . presented with sympathy and frequently with humor . . . [of] a disparate people who were never united except by their resentment of a foreign conqueror.”  –The Atlantic Monthly

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