From Publishers Weekly
"The only defense is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves." This quote, occurring toward the end of this horrifying and deeply moving account of Serbian ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, comes not from Slobodon Milosevic but from Stanley Baldwin, later a British prime minister, in a 1932 speech and serves as a historical frame for the action covered here. While most Americans saw the air strikes on television, McAllester claims that "the unseen war, the war inside Kosovo, has remained largely untold." Defying the Yugoslavian government's ban on unescorted foreign reporters, McAllester, who shared a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the TWA flight 800, went in 2001 to Pec, Kosovo's most ravaged city during the 78 days of NATO bombing. McAllester carefully charts the larger historical and political framework: the history of Pec, the longstanding animosity between the ethnic Albanians and the Serbs, the complicated position of regular Serb soldiers caught between the KLA attacks and NATO bombing. But the main focus is on Isa Bala, an ethnic Albanian sausage maker and his family, and in particular their persecution by their Serb gangster neighbor, Nebojsa Minic, and on a persistent family feud. McAllester is a careful observer and as the story moves from the ordinary (everyday life; Isa selling Minic sausages; Isa wishing he had married earlier so that he could have more children) to the horrifying rape of his wife and brutal murder of most of his children, the story becomes nearly unbearable in its inevitability. McAllester's spare, understated prose ("The skull seemed to be the size of a child's," he notes, coming upon a local killing ground) is potent, as is his exploration of the human side of geopolitics and war. (Feb.)Forecast: As the "small" wars of the '90s involving Muslims come to seem more and more related (see review of A Dirty War, p. 58), journalistic books such as this will be sought out by readers trying to make sense of recent history. McAllester's excellent, heartbreaking work here is more relevant than ever.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
NATO's 1999 bombardment of Kosovo was intended to end ethnic cleansing in the province and is known in the West through the streams of refugees who fled across the border, telling horrific tales of the brutality they left behind. This account, in contrast, is about several families who remained in the Kosovar city of Pec and tried to survive. A Newsday correspondent and winner of a shared Pulitzer, McAllester crossed into Kosovo without official sanction or papers. He tells the story through two men, an Albanian Kosovar butcher and his extended family, and a Serb who had joined a paramilitary unit. The depth of hatred that each group expresses toward the other explains a lot of the revenge violence during the conflict and offers no hope of lasting peace anytime soon. None of the individuals introduced here emerges with completely clean hands, and none has been indicted for war crimes. This account is not of the "virtual war" that Westerners saw on their television screens but of the real effects on people who consider the ravaged area home. Informed readers will appreciate the perspective. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.