FREE delivery: Friday, Dec 9 on orders over $25.00 shipped by Amazon.
Ships from: Amazon.com Sold by: Amazon.com
Other Sellers on Amazon
Follow the Author
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 30, 2007
Explore your book, then jump right back to where you left off with Page Flip.
View high quality images that let you zoom in to take a closer look.
Enjoy features only possible in digital – start reading right away, carry your library with you, adjust the font, create shareable notes and highlights, and more.
Discover additional details about the events, people, and places in your book, with Wikipedia integration.
Enhance your purchase
Written on the brink of World War II, Rebecca West’s classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is still a focus of international concern. A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon probes the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and the people of Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as West untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
“Surely one of the great books of our century.” —Diana Trilling
About the Author
Christopher Hitchens (introducer; 1949–2011) was the author of more than twenty books and pamphlets, including the #1 New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; the bestselling memoir Hitch-22, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and the essay collection Arguably, which was one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2011. He was named by Foreign Policy and Britain’s Prospect one of the world’s “Top 100 Public Intellectuals.”
- Publisher : Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (January 30, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 1181 pages
- ISBN-10 : 014310490X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143104902
- Item Weight : 2.22 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.42 x 2.09 x 8.45 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #111,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2020
Reviews with images
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Its reputation suffers currently because Rebecca West, writing in the late 1930s, sympathized with the Serbs, whose reputation has been darkened in our time by the atrocities of Bosnia and Kosovo.
I would guess most West opponents favor rival Croats or Albanians just as they claim she favors the Serbs. A Serb advocate might point out that Croats and Muslims committed a few atrocities of their own as Yugoslavia broke apart. And a West defender may note that she was not equipped with a crystal ball showing Slobodan Milosevic's rise a half century later.
When she wrote, the Serbs readily evoked Western sympathy: They were on the Allied side in World War I, and would be again, before the book went to press, in World War II, when they were invaded for bravely defying Hitler. They were Christians, inheritors of the legacy of Byzantium, who freed themselves from five centuries of Turkish Islamic domination, and had fought as well to free Macedonia and Bosnia. Their king had just been assassinated in France in an act machinated by Mussolini and abetted, through silence, by the world's nations. They suffered greatly throughout their history, including World War I, when the war with more powerful Austria swept back and forth over the land twice, forcing the army and many civilians to flee at one point in a horrifying death march through winter and mountains. And the Serbs had always fought with little more than moral support from great power allies, who betrayed them again and again. Weighing against them was their Orthodox Christian rite which often put them at odds with the powerful Roman Catholic Church.
This book, however much it might have seemed dated during the 1990s, takes on a greater significance in the post 9/11 world: She shows us just how deep the roots of the Christian-Islamic conflict run in this land, for centuries that conflict's front line.
West, for example, distinguishes marvelously between the Bosnian Muslims - Slavs who converted to Islam during the Turkish occupation, many of them Slav nationalists who supported Yugoslav nationhood - and the Turks themselves, who regarded the Slavs as other and inferior. She finds fascinating cross-religious alliances, with the Austrian Catholics cozying up to the Muslims of Bosnia when Austria ruled it, to the detriment of the land's Croat Catholics and Orthodox Serbs, who expected better of fellow Christians. She details a positively surreal scene in Sarajevo, where the Muslims anxiously await the first Turkish republican emissaries since the Ottomans were driven out a half century earlier. When these modern, Westernized diplomats arrive, from their land where Ataturk banned the fez and the burka, they are warm to modern Yugoslav officials, but baffled by and cool to what they regard as the still-backwards, Orientalized Muslims of Bosnia.
West got away with a writing style full of ethnic generalizations that, today, would likely be attacked, by airheads anyway, as politically incorrect, regardless of the many hard truths she wrote. A feminist, she wrote of gender in a way delightfully free of today's academic cant. You'll find nary a "patriarchy" or "hegemony" here; she talks of men and women only when it matters.
I don't believe she leans too strongly towards the Serbs. It is, after all, in great part the story of their lands, and of the short-lived state led by their monarchy. Her section on Bosnia, where the Croats, Serbs and Muslims all mixed, is fair to all sides. She finds much with which to fascinate the reader in Dubrovnik and elsewhere along the Dalmatian coast. The primary villains here are the Turks - not today's modernized, democratic Turks, but their imperial Ottoman predecessors, who sucked wealth and civilization out of the Balkans to set the stage for today's animosities. And West even manages to find some redemption for them in their transcending love of nature and the well-designed, pleasant homes they left behind.
You are unlikely to find in English a more cogent account of the Archduke Ferdinand's assassination, which led to World War I. One sees how this equalled the Kennedy assassination for its lingering scent of conspiracy - was the killing actually orchestrated by the Russians? by the Austrians themselves? - and surpassed it in shaking the world, despite targeting a much less popular or powerful man.
Many histories can supply hard facts. BLGF stands out for West's elegant travelogue writing in which she lashes together history; national and individual character; geography, ethnicity, and politics. She and her husband journey through Yugoslavia accompanied by a guide and translator who, also a poet, helps interpret the places that signify in Yugoslav history, as well as mundane settings from which West gleans the essence of the nation's many peoples.
The book's length daunts, and sometimes the writing drags. Tensions with the guide-poet's German wife during the group's trip through Macedonia take up too much space. But one can forgive even this: West finds, in this woman's hostility and condescension toward her husband's country, the attitudes that were then driving Germany toward conquest - including its brutal occupation of Yugoslavia beginning in 1941, the year this book was published.
Readers might consider countering the book's length by taking each national section - on Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia and so forth - as individual books, setting the tome down for a while before starting the next unit.
Yes, Yugoslavia doesn't really exist any more and it says much about the character and personality that allowed Josip Broz Tito to weave a diverse handful of Balkan countries into the Yugoslavia that existed for a half-century starting during that war. It seems the Serbs, the Croats, the Dalmatians, the Macedonians and all the other residents of the future Yugoslavia had wonderfully hateful reasons for turning their backs on one another over the centuries. West provides the historical and cultural backgrounds for the quirks and quarrels that kept these little nation states at war or, at least, at odds with their neighbors.
The nation of Yugoslavia had not yet been put together by Tito when West and her husband journeyed through each of the small entities where centuries of hatred between its residents made the Balkans synonymous with political fracture. She notes the differences -- in habits, customs, economies, religions and ethnicities -- and provides incisive looks back into the histories of the places she spends time. This book has given me more insightful glances of the historical reasons the Balkans are Balkanized than anything I've ever come across.
But it's more than history that drew me to West's tome: she has a dry wit that provides many an aside that helps us understand what she saw and what she thought of the new people with their new, to her, ways of cooking, of worshipping and of making a living. It makes foe wonderful reading, especially if you can space it out over a few months! This is a great book, a classic!
Top reviews from other countries
Written literally just before world war 2, it contains a vivid history of the various different peoples and country's that made up Yugoslavia in the first half of the 20th century.
Mandatory reading if one wishes to understand the later wars and politics of the Balkan region.