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Hearts Grown Brutal : Sagas of Sarajevo Paperback – August 25, 1998


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Amazon.com Review

The 73-year life span of Yugoslavia roughly coincides with what historians have called "the short 20th century," from the onset of World War I to the end of the cold war. It was always a tenuously constructed nation, and when it finally collapsed, Roger Cohen was there, dutifully filing reports for the New York Times. In Hearts Grown Brutal, he adds depth and personal drama to the stories of civil war and ethnicide, and he points an accusing finger at the Western nations who put the lie to any notion of a "new world order" by offering only half-hearted challenges to Serbian aggression until nearly 250,000 innocents had died and 2.7 million civilians had been driven from their homes.

Cohen, like many Western analysts, observes that the clash between Muslim Bosnians, Catholic Croats, and Orthodox Serbs had been in the making for hundreds of years. But he locates the origins of the recent "collective madness"--as one Serbian leader called it--in World War II, when Croatia sided with the Nazis and when Serbia took the opportunity of the German invasion to settle old scores against Croats, Muslims, Jews, and Gypsies. Ordinary men and women of Yugoslavia committed extraordinary acts of inhumanity against one another during the war against Hitler. Post-Communist civil war gave them license to hate one another anew: when Serbia struck out at Bosnia and Croatia, all three nations fell into a frenzy of slaughter whose repercussions will be felt for generations to come. Hearts Grown Brutal is a somber, horrifying indictment of all involved that stands as an essential work of contemporary history. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Cohen admits that his experience covering the Bosnian War for the New York Times changed him. He counts himself fortunate not to have been destroyed, like the estimated 200,000 dead or the living whose lives were deranged by the war's terror. This is a long book, thick with metaphor that struggles to describe the unspeakable. The ethnic mistrust reignited by Slobodan Milosevic had been buried in Bosnia generations ago. Through four "typical" families, whose personal histories form part of Bosnia's own, Cohen shows how Serb, Muslim, Croat and Jew had become so inextricably linked that their identity could be nothing other than Bosnian Yugoslav. Serb fanaticism not only estranged neighbors but broke the bonds between families and even between husbands and wives. NATO nations, with massive strength poised against potential Soviet threats to the Balkans, became impotent and flagrantly manipulated by an ambiguous enemy. Cohen's indignant questions reverberate?What stripped the West of moral courage just 40 years after the Holocaust? What compelled the U.N. to insist on a fantastic and suicidal impartiality in the face of atrocity? What allows mass psychosis to grip an entire nation? With the foundations of democracy safely inherited, do we abjure courage and responsibility, to pursue consumer comforts whatever the spiritual cost? His conclusions are not auspicious. Bosnia epitomized a triumph of tolerance; in its loss, he doubts our capacity to achieve it again. Editor, Kate Medina; agent, Amanda Urban, ICM.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 25, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812991788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812991789
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,494,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

All of this and more are recounted by Cohen in his very readable account.
Brian D. Rubendall
For me its not just enough to read the book myself, I want to buy other copies and give to friends.
Jonas Paulsson
Every page, every line tells the truth behind the Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian conflict.
Christiana Washington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Rubendall HALL OF FAME on May 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The destruction of Yugoslavia is not the easiest of subjects to fully comprehend. Cohen's informative and excellently written narrative is the best place to start. Cohen does more than just describe the events, he attempts to get beneath the surface to understand the psychology behind the unspeakable atrocities committed during the various wars. The trajedy of Yugoslavia cannot be understood without a recounting of the atrocities committed there during World War II, atrocities that largely went unpunished. All of this and more are recounted by Cohen in his very readable account. It is must reading for anyone interested in recent European history.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bosnian Institute on March 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A big, passionate book by the New York Times correspondent, who has tried to pack everything into it: the Bosnian experience of the war (told through several family histories), the Western response and UN policy, and the historical background. Cohen argues well against the `ethnic hatreds' doctrine, but tends to substitute World War II hatreds instead. However, his analysis of UN failure, including evidence drawn from minutes of a high-level meeting held before the fall of Srebrenica, will be of lasting importance
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
It is said that history repeats itself, but never so quickly and with such dismal sameness as in the former Yugoslavia. I purchased this book in hopes of gaining a greater understanding of the conflict there, and managed to start reading it just in time for the current round of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and NATO's (and the US's) disorganized response to it. The book is extremely well-written and structured in an interesting way, beginning with the story of one young man's decades-long search for his father, a Bosnian Muslim who faded from his family's knowledge in the chaos of World War II.The gut-wrenching conclusion to that first part of the book, so full of pathos that you can hardly believe it really happened (but know that it did) leads into the Bosnian war of the early 1990's, centering on the long and ugly death of the city of Sarajevo and the toll it took on several other families. Cohen pulls no punches in letting the reader know exactly how he feels about the UN's response to that conflict. I would certainly like to hear his take on the current situation there, which he all but predicted at the end of this book. I would recommend "Hearts Grown Brutal" to anyone who would like to sort out in their own minds what really happened in Bosnia and Sarajevo such a short few years ago. In light of today's headlines, the book certainly provides food for thought as to America's response and responsibilities in this area of the world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christiana Washington on August 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down. Every page, every line tells the truth behind the Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian conflict. All wars are complex and difficult to comprehend but Mr. Cohen helps us understand what happened just a few years ago. An accurate and eye-opening account. Some of the atrocities committed are so heinous, so vile as to bring us right back to images of the Third Reich. This is a very important work by a man who knows what he is talking about.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I called Roger Cohen in Germany late one night after reading most of his book, and probably scared him that out in Kansas, someone knows about Bosnia. I had to tell him that he had written the book I wish I could have done. I've been to Sarajevo (in 1997 for a month staying with families of students I had hosted) and have been host to 15 Sarajevo students from 1993-1997, with two living with me at a time. (Every combination of religion was represented, by the way.) Mr. Cohen tells the truth. With Kosovo (what a surprise) starting up again, it is important that a writer of Cohen's abilities lead us back to the reality of the war in Bosna and Hercegovina. Along with Roy Gutman's books, and a Short History of Bosnia, this is a must read. I hope someone on Clinton's staff has it. George Laughead Jr.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After a few hundred pages, when your ability to read about another Balkans family and their plight begins to wane, Cohen presents some new detail in an individual life that forces you to refocus on how the war crushed people so much like Americans and so very European that the "ancient hatreds" argument becomes sickening. To read about a 16-year-old girl's Tom Cruise poster and her death by shelling is to realize how much the West failed. Compelling, brutal, depressing, and vital reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonas Paulsson on March 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
this is the book to read. Its absolutely fantastic. Roger Cohen has a very sharp pen. For me its not just enough to read the book myself, I want to buy other copies and give to friends.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By FRANCES SLATER on September 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I recently travelled to Sarajevo , Croatia and Slovenia and read this book before and during my trip. The book helped me gain a much better understanding of the war in the 90's as well as the complicated history of this area. The author presents the history in a very human way, featuring 4 families from different ethnic/cultural backgrounds-- the sad reality of the genocide against the Bosnian Muslims and the failure of the UN and western nations to respond is emphasized throughout the book. Great read!!
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