In Europe, where it has been seen as pro-Serbian, journalist Peter Handke's meditative essay on ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia has been stirring up a great deal of controversy. But Handke, a German and a longtime resident of Paris, disavows nationalist partisanship. Instead, he works to unravel the tangles of ethnic hatred, snarled over generations and centuries, to discover whether peace is possible in the Balkans, and he reserves his enmity for the European media, which, he maintains, has systematically misunderstood the collapse of the former communist world. This book is impressionistic and short--you can read it over coffee in about an hour--but also deeply thoughtful, and deeply unsettling.
From Publishers Weekly
Handke argues that the Western news media have unfairly portrayed the Serbs as brutal aggressors in the Yugoslav war while presenting Croats as sympathetic victims. The eminent German novelist/ playwright/essayist charges that the Croats started the war by marching militia into Serbian villages, and he blames Germany for its haste in recognizing the newly formed state of Croatia, whose constitution designated 600,000 Serbs living in Croatia as a second-class ethnic group. Born to German-Slovenian parents near the border of the former Yugoslavia, Handke traveled through Bosnia and Serbia in late 1995 accompanied by two Serbian-born friends. Partly a poetic, sensitive travelogue, partly a nervously defensive polemic, this slender volume touched off a firestorm of controversy in Europe, where Handke was accused by critics of attempting to minimize Serbian war crimes. Because of its self-consciously literary style and its hairsplitting analysis of European journalism, films and TV news coverage, the book will probably have less impact here.
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