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Madness Visible: A Memoir of War Paperback – February 8, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"It is only possible to love one war," writes di Giovanni in this devastating memoir of the Balkans, quoting another intrepid war journalist, Martha Gellhorn. For Gellhorn, it was the Spanish Civil War; for di Giovanni, it's the series of conflicts that, since 1991, have consumed the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Expanded from a Vanity Fair article, this book presents a harrowing firsthand account of a region's spiral into madness. Di Giovanni, a senior foreign correspondent for The Times (London), was there almost from the beginning: she shuddered through the first icy winter of the Sarajevo siege (the longest in modern history); she sipped tea with Arkan, the dreaded leader of the ethnic-cleansing paramilitary Tigers; she stood shoulder to shoulder with Serb revolutionaries on "Day One" of the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic. The book deals primarily with di Giovanni's experiences covering the most recent war-1999's conflict in Kosovo-but it moves through time from the initial dissolution of Yugoslavia to the most recent, guardedly optimistic attempts at reconstruction. Di Giovanni provides ample historical context to the fighting (readers seeking to understand the separatist impulse of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church or Milosevic's "mother complex" have plenty of evidence to play with), but eventually, the names and dates of massacres and treaties pale next to the spectacle of pure horror: a dog trotting by with a human hand in its mouth; a crazed woman lying naked in full view of snipers, begging to be shot. Di Giovanni has written a tragic book that vividly memorializes the millions who suffered in the name of religion, nationality and ego. Map not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Anglo-American journalist di Giovanni assembles and extends her war reportage from the Balkans into an impressive overview of the disintegration of Yugoslavia. She reports the dreary and appalling events since the death of Tito and, especially, since 1992 in better prose than a good deal of the competition commands, though not even her accounts of individual survival and suffering break much new ground. She points the finger of blame squarely at the Serbs, however, for taking actions without which there would have been no crisis and whose dream of a greater Serbia is definitely as bloodthirsty as that of a Judenfrei Europe. She is also blunt about foreign intervention having been too little and too late, leaving NATO and the UN with blood on their hands and the real prospect of Balkan ethnic brawls erupting again for the World War I centennial. In all, a worthwhile discussion of whether the influence of the violence-never-settles-anything mentality now causes more violence than it prevents. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375724559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375724558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janine di Giovanni is a writer for The Times of London and Vanity Fair, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, The Spectator, National Geographic and many others. She also writes columns and Op-Ed pieces for the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. She frequently lectures on human rights abuse around the world. One of the world's most respected and experienced reporters, she has vast experience covering war and conflict. Her reporting has been called "established, accomplished brilliance" and she has been cited as "the finest foreign correspondent of our generation".

Her latest book, Ghosts by Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love, will be published by Knopf on September 20th.

Born in the US, she began reporting by covering the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s and went on to report nearly every violent conflict since then. Her trademark has always been to write about the human cost of war, to attempt to give war a human face, and to work in conflict zones that the world's press has forgotten.

She continued writing about Bosnia long after most people forgot it. In 2000, she was one of the few foreign reporters to witness the fall of Grozny, Chechnya, and her depictions of the terror after the fall of the city won her several major awards. She has campaigned for stories from Africa to be given better coverage, and she has worked in Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Benin, Burkino Faso, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Liberia, as well as Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, East Timor and Chechnya.

During the war in Kosovo, di Giovanni travelled with the Kosovo Liberation Army into occupied Kosovo and sustained a bombing raid on her unit which left many soldiers dead. Her article on that incident, and many of her other experiences during the Balkan Wars, "Madness Visible" for Vanity Fair (June 1999), won the National Magazine Award. It was later expanded into a book for Knopf/Bloomsbury, and has been called one of the best books ever written about war. Madness Visible has been optioned as a feature film by actress Julia Roberts production company, Revolution Films.

Di Giovanni has written several books: Ghosts by Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love; The Place at the End of the World: Essays from the Edge; Against the Stranger about the effect of occupations during the first intifada on both Palestinians and Israelis; The Quick and The Dead about the siege of Sarajevo, and the introduction to the best-selling Zlata's Diary about a child growing up in Sarajevo. Her work have been anthologized widely, including in The Best American Magazine Writing, 2000.

She has won four major awards, including the National Magazine Award, one of America's most prestigious prizes in journalism. She has won two Amnesty International Awards for Sierra Leone and Bosnia. And she has won Britain's Grenada Television's Foreign Correspondent of the Year for Chechnya. In 2010 she was the President of the Jury of the Prix Bayeux for War Correspondents.

She is one of the journalists featured in a documentary about women war reporters, Bearing Witness, a film by three-time Academy Award winning director Barbara Kopple, which was shown at the Tribeca film festival and on the A&E network in May, 2005.

In 1993, she was the subject of another documentary about women war reporters, "No Man's Land" which followed her working in Sarajevo. She has also made two long format documentaries for the BBC. In 2000, she returned to Bosnia to make "Lessons from History," a report on five years of peace after the Dayton Accords. The following year she went to Jamaica to report on a little-known but tragic story of police assassinations of civilians, "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Both films were critically acclaimed.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tim Judah on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the most bizarre incident recounted in Janine di Giovanni's tales of war comes at a time of peace. She is in Sarajevo, six years after the end of the war, and a radio station in Cape Town wants to interview her about a piece she has written for her newspaper, the Times. To her horror the interviewer asks her about snipers and aid convoys, as though the Bosnian war was still in full swing. The fact that it had ended had simply passed the South African by. "It was my obsession," she writes, but not that of others.

So this is a book about di Giovanni's obsession. The Yugoslav wars, or at least the Bosnian and Kosovo chapters of it. This is compelling reportage at its best. Grisly and depressing at times, of course, but also most revealing too. As reporting wars and how to do it, becomes, in the wake of Iraq, ever more a subject of discussion, di Giovanni is brave to admit that she for one does not believe in objectivity.

Discussing the siege of Sarajevo which lasted from 1992 to 1995, she writes: "We were guilty, we knew, of perhaps only covering one side of the war, but for us there was only one side: the side that was getting pounded, that was being strangled slowly, turning blue and purple." That side was the Bosnian Muslim side, and those Serbs who always said that they were "demonised" by the international media will see vindication in these words. After all, they will point out, Alija Izetbegovic, the then leader of the Bosnian Muslims was being investigated for war crimes by The Hague war crimes tribunal when he died in 2003 di Giovanni does not talk of Muslim crimes. But, as she says, "the truth wasn't necessarily objective; it was where we were sitting, what we were seeing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By LeRoy Woodson Jr on October 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Madness Visible : A Memoir of War is one of those rare

books where the author focuses on the victims-women

and children-and how they were caught between the

fires of opposing forces. She explains how the wars

cut a violent swath through the fabric of Balkan

society and culture, how rape became an instrument of

war to be used against Moslem women, in particular,

for whom the shame of rape and the children rapes

produced rendered their lives all but unbearable. Ms.

Di Giovanni allows readers to experience the tragedy

of the Balkans Wars intimately and unforgettably.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to

understand the horrors visited upon innocent

populations who fall victim to the lust for power of a

handful of arrogant leaders the West could not or

would not contain. There is enough blame to go around

for everyone who had anything to do with bringing the

world the Balkan Wars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By B. von Hase on October 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Di Giovanni shows war from a deeply personal perspective; there are few books that bring the horror so vividly to life. The most harrowing stories in this book are particularly devastating to me as a German reader: it seems there were few lessons learnt from WW2, and no end to the atrocities human beings can inflict on each other. Di Giovanni deals sensitively with a difficult subject matter, and illuminates its historical context brilliantly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Donn on October 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Madness Visible is a powerful and extremely moving account of war. It reads like a novel, but its not and this is also why it's so harrowing. So much is contained in a sentence, on a page (action, danger , fear , sorrow) that sometimes you feel compelled to put it down and re-read the passage over, just to be able to take it all in. Janine di giovanni is able to give us unobstructed access to the frontline of war.Is it possible that human beings in our world should continue to be subjected to so much madness and suffering?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Branca on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
An unflinching and gripping portrayal of the Balkan War, Janine di Giovanni's book shows us just how quickly normality can descend into madness, propeling a civilised society into brutal mayhem. One becomes so engrossed in this book, listening to the victims as they lay their stories bare, it is easy to forget that di Giovanni herself was on the front line, narrowly escaping death a few times. The stories she tells are unforgettable (the rape victims, Koljevic, the Shakespeare scholar who became Milosevic's puppet, Biljana Plavsic, the Iron Lady of the Balkans) the images she conjures powerful and haunting.

A must read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Adam Daniel Mezei on May 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
...for us, her readership, that is.

What strikes me most about this superbly-told memoir is the visceral reality with which author Di Giovanni succeeds in recollecting her experiences of the period and place with razor-sharp detail. Even more shocking once I'd learned (towards the end of Madness Visible) that she'd absconded alone to Cote D'Ivoire, Ivory Coast, of all locales to compile her notes and pen this book. For *that* alone, I think she deserves heapful praise; all the moreso in that the bombs began to fall in the Ivoreans own civil conflict at the time of her sojourn there. Yikes...

Curious about this particular work is that Janine chooses to commence her account of the bloody Balkan decade with the NATO bombings of Kosovo in 1999. After a suitable reflection on the read, I have yet to figure out why that was the case...almost like we were going back in time with her -- or the experience which had a lesser impact upon her was delivered first.

Theories all. Curiosity, it was. Merely curiosities.

A frightening element which shines resoundingly through is the war correspondent's mythic love for the field of battle, almost as if the daily rush of adrenaline which war reporters mainline from conflict zones around the globe is like the elixir of their lives, their consummate vice in a manner of speaking.

I've heard about this several times before, by reading other sources and listening to speeches given my those who've passed thorugh bloody battlefield hells, and am fully cognizant of the phenomenon. Di Giovanni makes no bones about the ravages of it, and is forthright with her admission that "it was only possible to love one war," quoting the immortal words of Spanish Civil War correspondent Martha Gellhorn.
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