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Part travelogue, part history, part love letter on a thousand-page scale, Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon is a genre-bending masterwork written in elegant prose. But what makes it so unlikely to be confused with any other book of history, politics, or culture--with, in fact, any other book--is its unashamed depth of feeling: think The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire crossed with Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. West visited Yugoslavia for the first time in 1936. What she saw there affected her so much that she had to return--partly, she writes, because it most resembled "the country I have always seen between sleeping and waking," and partly because "it was like picking up a strand of wool that would lead me out of a labyrinth in which, to my surprise, I had found myself immured." Black Lamb is the chronicle of her travels, but above all it is West following that strand of wool: through countless historical digressions; through winding narratives of battles, slavery, and assassinations; through Shakespeare and Augustine and into the very heart of human frailty.
West wrote on the brink of World War II, when she was "already convinced of the inevitability of the second Anglo-German war." The resulting book is colored by that impending conflict, and by West's search for universals amid the complex particulars of Balkan history. In the end, she saw the region's doom--and our own--in a double infatuation with sacrifice, the "black lamb and grey falcon" of her title. It's the story of Abraham and Isaac without the last-minute reprieve: those who hate are all too ready to martyr the innocent in order to procure their own advantage, and the innocent themselves are all too eager to be martyred. To West, in 1941, "the whole world is a vast Kossovo, an abominable blood-logged plain." Unfortunately, little has happened since then to prove her wrong. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A masterpiece . . . as astonishing in its range, in the subtlety and power of its judgment, as it is brilliant in expression. (The Times, London)
Surely one of the great books of our century. (Diana Trilling)
Rebecca Wests magnum opus . . . one of the great books of our time. (Clifton Fadiman, The New Yorker)
Very entertaining and informative though West is very biased in her views.Published 4 days ago by Rama V. Ramachandran
Every so often I pick up a book that informs me in the first page that I am in the presence of a mind who's intelligence and acuity far exceed mine. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Tom Randall
Although Rebecca West is a brilliant observer the book is very long. She includes historical stories as she passes through different parts of Yugoslavia--some pretty... Read morePublished 2 months ago by MARGO
classic hopefully will be rediscovered. Her depiction of the Balkans and the many ethnic groups that make it up is so important for Americans especially to know about as we are so... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Downtown Pearl
Anybody with any interest in the former Yugoslavia must read this book. It is part travel memoir, part history. Read morePublished 5 months ago by tony giffone
This is a very long book that I read a chapter at a time. It remains, a judged by a search about the history of the balkans, still the premier source of information about the... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Senator James W. Squires