Madness Visible: A Memoir of War Paperback – February 8, 2005
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“Many journalists have written accounts of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution. Madness Visible is among the best of them. . . . One of Giovanni’s strengths is that if she takes sides it is simply the side of the victim. . . . Succeeds admirably.” –Times Literary Supplement
“A compelling and meticulous account. . . . The author is at her very best when she writes about the people. . . . When di Giovanni speaks of Sarajevo –and she does speak, her voice poignant, grief admixed with rage and frustration– it is gripping.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Compelling reportage at its best: grisly and depressing at times, of course, but also revealing.” –The Economist
“One of the best books ever written about war.” --The Arizona Republic
"Moving. . . . Janine di Giovanni is our Virgil, guiding us through the circles of that man-made hell: Sarajevo, Kosovo, Pristina. . . . If you read no other book about the Balkan wars, read this one. " --Phil Caputo
“[An] important book. . . . There are few outsiders who better understand what has happened in the Balkans. . . . Madness Visible is the story of all wars.” --The Guardian (London)
"Di Giovanni connects names and battles as well as peoples who have a historic distrust of one another. . . . This is di Giovanni's one war, and she passionately documents its inhumanity." --The New York Times
“Illuminating. . . . [Her] stream-of-consciousness approach . . . imbues the book with its quiet but undeniable emotional power. . . . [Despite the] gloom that pervades each page, these accounts remain compelling because of Di Giovanni’s resolve to grasp each individual’s frail sense of hope and shattered human dignity.” --.San Antonio Express-News
“Remarkable. . . . A powerful, passionate account, and well worth the waiting for.” --The Times (London)
"Janine di Giovanni has described war in a way that almost makes me think it never needs to be described again. . . . More than a book about war, however, this is a book about the human race, in all its anguishing complexity. I can honestly say that I finished this book a wiser, more compassionate person than when I started." --Sebastian Junger
“Powerful. . . . Moving. . . . Full of gripping reportage about the horrors of life during wartime.” --Newsday
"The veteran reporter has a keen eye for detail and dialogue [while] . . . delving . . . substantially into the political, historical and ethnic tensions contributing to the 1992-95 war. . . . While di Giovanni looks back, however, she is aware that others do not. . . . Madness Visible reminds us of the folly and shame in this neglect." --The Washington Post
“Janine di Giovanni is superb--an extraordinarily brave war correspondent and a wonderful writer as well. What a combination!” --William Shawcross
"Excellent. . . . Di Giovanni depicts just how unsatisfactory, even crazy, the 'peace' in Kosovo is. . . . Her descriptive talents are at their best when her eye comes to rest on the plight of civilians. . . . Don't read this book for its analysis of Balkan politics, which you can get elsewhere, but for its very humane portrait of fighters, refugees and victims." --The Daily Telegraph (London)
"An embedded journalist before the term was invented. . . . [Di Giovanni] provides a haunting record of the continuing war in the Balkans." --Harper's Bazaar
"Powerful. . . . The images are unforgettable and di Giovanni writes movingly, with no need for embellishment, about . . . the insanity and irrationality of human behavior. Read this book and you may begin to understand what war looks and feels like, or even smells like." --The Spectator
"Chilling. . . . [Di Giovanni's] courage is matched only by her compassion for her subjects. . . . She is a woman who simply doesn't know the meaning of the word 'can't' and in her profession that's a major asset." --The Evening Standard (London)
“Should be read . . . for an understanding of the depravity of Balkan wars of ethnic cleansing . . . [and for the] insights [it] offer[s] into the world of war correspondents working at the razor’s edge of their profession.” --Columbia Journalism Review
"Affecting. . . . Her account reflects both her passionate engagement with the people and her own sense of deep loss in this place." --The Hartford Advocate
From the Inside Flap
As a reporter for The Times of London, Janine di Giovanni found herself a close witness to the cycles of violence and vengeance in cities and villages, in refugee camps, in slapped-together hospitals, and in the homes of citizens under siege. She begins her story in May 1999 in Kosovo. The world believes the Balkan wars are over, but violence persists. She follows the arc of the war from its earliest days through the staggering experience of the people who endured it: soldiers numbed by–and inured to–the atrocities they commit, women driven to despair by their life in paramilitary rape camps, civilians (di Giovanni among them) caught in bombing raids of uncertain origin, babies murdered in hate-induced rage.
She searches for the motives of the leaders who created this hell: Slobodan Milosevic and his wife, Mira Markovic, and such crucial though less well-known figures as Nikola Koljevic, who directed the siege–and accomplished the destruction–of Sarajevo, the city he claimed to love.
Di Giovanni's story raises profoundly challenging questions: What can cause neighbors who have lived peacefully side by side for centuries to turn against one another with mindless brutality? What becomes of survivors when the fabric of an age-old community is destroyed? How should other governments react to mass murder in a neighboring country?
Acutely perceptive, unflinching, making the madness of war visible, this is an important work of reportage from the physical and psychological front lines.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Publisher : Vintage (February 8, 2005)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0375724559
- ISBN-13 : 978-0375724558
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,202,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The author recounts her experiences in the Balkans in the 1990s and early 2000s, and is exposed to the extreme limits of the utter barbarism our species is fully capable of achieving. Her book is the closest to war one can experience on a page.
This is also an achievement of pure journalism. Certainly, di Giovanni did not have report in the Balkans as it disintegrated into war, death, ethnic cleansing, systematic rape, forced expulsions and genocide. The people around her in Kosovo and Sarajevo had no choice but to be in the war. But she went as a professional calling and duty, detailing crimes that we always say should no longer happen, but ultimately, and sadly, are replicated.
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. That's a statement, if I've ever heard one before.
As I flipped through page after captivating page, my mind drifted back to thoughts of the year 1984, the Winter Olympics in the Bosnian capital, and how only a decade (or less) previous, the world banded together on those same majestic slopes surrounding Sarajevo (in Pale, for instance) in an act of peace, harmony, and amateur sport.
Positively nightmarish it might have been for some of the athletes to have returned to witness the aftermath of the carnage.
A stray thought which came to mind as I pondered the read.
Di Giovanni is a very talented scribe with a flair for narrative. I hope to read more of her stuff in other places, and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for her.
Kudos on the tip for the Richard Holbrooke book. I've already added it to my library.
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." And she was seeing civilians cut down by Serbian snipers and old people literally freezing to death in a nursing home.
The book begins with the Kosovo war in 1999, moves on to Milosevic's Serbia in the months afterwards and then flashes back to the Bosnia of the early 1990s. There are telling chapters exploring the minds of two key Bosnian Serb leaders, the Shakespearean scholar Nikola Koljevic, who made his own tragedy before killing himself, and Biljana Plavsic who, racked by remorse, unusually pleaded guilty to war crimes at The Hague.
Di Giovanni recalls that the doyenne of a previous generation of war reporters, Martha Gellhorn, once said, referring to the Spanish Civil War, that "it was only possible to love one war" and the rest became duty. Di Giovanni would have us believe that Yugoslavia was her greatest love and that Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Iraq and the all the other places she has reported on were duty. In fact, reading between the lines, the true love seems to have been Sarajevo and Bosnia. If so, then even Kosovo was duty - but she does write about it well. A good book and a great read.