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The Bosnia List: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Return Paperback – Illustrated, February 25, 2014
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“A mesmerizing tale of survival and healing.”
“An engaging memoir of war trauma and the redemption to be found in confronting it.”
“A young New Yorker haunted by searing memories goes on a most unusual overseas vacation—not to sightsee or party but to confront the ordinary men and women who tore his family’s lives apart. His journey takes us into a time of mesmerizing violence and betrayal when neighbors set upon each other as though it were the 1940s all over again—a world of twisted emotions and baffling brutality lying just below the surface of his contemporary Europe. THE BOSNIA LIST is powerful, the flashbacks riveting.”
—Tom Reiss, bestselling author of The Black Count and The Orientalist
“With understated elegance and in highly personal pointillist dots, Kenan Trebincevic illuminates how the Bosnian tragedy blighted, and continues to blight, the lives of countless people both in his homeland and in its far-flung diaspora. This important and original work reminds us, in ways large and small, of the long half-life of an atrocity.”
—David Margolick, bestselling author of Elizabeth and Hazel and Strange Fruit
“Kenan Trebincevic fights against the power of memory and his own rage in this remembrance of a time that seems like a medieval anachronism yet was barely a decade ago. This is a searing memoir of war and peace from a young man who sees through ancient rhetoric with stunning clarity, both in his home country and his adopted United States. Read this book for its impassioned honesty.”
—Tom Zoellner, bestselling author of A Safeway in Arizona
“I’m so blown away by this beautiful book. For the first time, a young Bosnian tells a riveting coming-of-age story about the brutal Balkan war when parents disappeared into concentration camps, teachers turned on students and children betrayed children.
Two decades later, now an American citizen, Kenan returns to his homeland to confront the guilty and honor the dead in this passionate, nuanced account of a man who refuses to forget.”
—Julia Lieblich, author of Sisters: Lives of Devotion and Defiance
“Kenan Trebincevic’s story of survival and remembrance is moving, well-told, and important for all of us to hear. He makes a powerful case for courage and human decency as the only way through the divisive madness of modern life.”
—Ian Frazier, bestselling author of Travels in Siberia and Great Plains
“THE BOSNIA LIST tells a fascinating story of a harrowing and heart-rending journey. It’s a graceful, taut memoir of family, friends and faith: a moving recollection of souls being torn asunder and slowly beginning to heal.”
—Laurence Bergreen, bestselling author of Columbus: The Four Journeys
“THE BOSNIA LIST was difficult to finish because it touched me so deeply. I’ve wondered how another Bosniak could describe their tragedy and traumas, watching the transformation of former friends and neighbors becoming animals. Most powerful was how Kenan’s mother’s voice echoed in his head and became his morality, preventing him from getting revenge. She’s one of the strongest, best described female characters in Bosnian literature. And I was rooting for Kenan’s father not to succumb to evil and stay a good man. That might be why his family survived. That shows us all: if we stay good, we have a chance.”
—Dr. Esad Boskailo, Bosnian war survivor and co-author of Wounded I Am More Awake
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Illustrated edition (February 25, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0143124579
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143124573
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.11 x 0.64 x 7.73 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #44,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Kenan did a wonderful job with his narrative of what his family went through and the struggles they had to face. I was completely shocked to see this inside story of how friends had turned on him and his family because of his ethnic and religious makeup. The scary thing is, I can see this happening again in many parts of the world.
The one thing I didn't like at first with the design of the story was how it would go from current day to the 1990's. It did this many times throughout the book, and I'll admit, it really frustrated me. But what I found was that it kept me sucked into the story and wanting to know more. It also let us cheat a little and skip ahead in the book each time it came to the more present time. I think this worked well and was well executed, and coupled with his skillful writing style, I thought it was a great read.
I also loved the fact that he had a list of the names of the people in the book and who they were, same with places, and also a short translation guide on what certain words mean. I found myself flipping to these many times.
One item that I really found nice in the book was not only the list that Kenan wanted to do if/when he returned to Bosnia, but the list he made after he visited it. His first list was more on the lines of confronting, but his second list was more on the lines on thanking. You can see the change that happened and that is a good thing. A troubled soul is not a good thing to have.
The one thing I wish was different in the book were the pictures. There are not enough. Kenan talks many times about these beautiful and wonderful people who he went back to see and who he met. The times where he went to his Grandpa's grave and met the grave keeper who repaired the headstone. It would have been wonderful to have seen some of those pictures. Possibly he can place them online for us to see someday.
I remember thinking back in 1984 how wonderful Sarajevo looked during the winter Olympics, and how interesting the people were. I recall saying to my parents that I wanted to go there some day. Then to see what this horrible war did to the country and how where the medals were awarded in 1984 was used as an execution place, it just saddens me. How could someone do this to their own people or their neighbors.
Anyhow, I'm glad I picked this book up as it has been one of the most enjoyable reads and I was sad when the book was done... not sad on how it all ended, but wished there was more to read.
Top reviews from other countries
I am very glad that Kenan wrote this book - it is as powerful an indictment of the casual drift into war as you could find. I sincerely wish, however, that he had never been put in a position where he had to write this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 12, 2019
At best you can hope for perspective, which The Bosnia List provides. The depredations of war, the festering anger of betrayal are presented through the mind of an eleven year old. Twenty years later, as an American citizen he re-visits his homeland, wanting to confront the villains from his childhood. To his astonishment he discovers that the lines between the good and bad guys are as convoluted as the relations between the ethnicities of the Balkans.
The Bosnia List is an astonishing book, showing the complexity of human motives and the vagaries of morality. It's engaging, able to convey powerful emotions without resorting to sentimentality.
As an afterthought, it's interesting to note that the protagonist identifies the suffering of the Bosnians with that of Jews during the Holocaust. He talks about how Israel helped Bosnian refugees during the war, and its need to be vigilant against its enemies. This is surprising, considering that Bosnians are Muslim, albeit largely secular. Israel has diplomatic relations with Bosnia, and has extradited an accused war criminal. In Sarajevo Jews believe it's the safest place in Europe for them. This is though Bosnia recently named a school for a Muslim Nazi collaborator, and Bosnian soccer fans yelled "kill the Jews" at a match against Israel. Relations between Bosnians and Jews are as convoluted as anything else about the Balkans. Proof is that this wonderful book is a collaboration between a Bosnian and a Jew.
The Bosnia List is well written and gripping. It provides an understanding of people, and of a perplexing and often violent part of the world. I strongly recommend it.