"Here is art which conceals art, and intellect which conceals intellect, so that by the end of the book one feels that one understands something one had not understood before. Mr Hall is witty and amusing, but not snide; he has a lightness of touch which allows him to write of extremely serious matters without solemnity; he knows how to convey a great deal in a few words' Sunday Telegraph. 'He is an observant and witty writer...you believe implicitly that he has met the people he writes about, and that they said what he quotes them as saying' Sunday Times
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(198mm x 129mm x 25mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
An incisive and affecting Yugoslavian travelogue from May to mid-September 1991, just as the country split up and its former republics went to war. Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, 1988, etc.) professes no solutions for the current Balkan trauma. Rather, he offers an elegy of sorts for the promise of humanism and an eyewitness account of the balkanization of mind and action. "Even intellectuals in Yugoslavia tend to think the truth is not only knowable, but obvious," Hall writes, and he unravels that in lively scenes and portraits, mostly of ordinary people but also of Serbian president Slobodan Milo??evi?? and the wearied Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegovi?? He describes the weirdness of Sarajevo television news, the slant of the stories dependent on the reporter's ethnicity. He traces the tortured rationalizations behind Croatians' defense of their not-so-unique language. He suggests that supportive audience members give a Serbian opposition press conference the feel of a revival meeting. Hall has a good grasp of the ironies of history (the Serbs claim the legacy of both the partisans and the Chetniks, who opposed each other in WW II) and of the present (Croatia's leading antidemocrats aren't home-grown - they're emigres from Australia and Canada). In multiethnic Bosnia, the microcosm of Yugoslavia, he drinks local-style coffee with Sarajevans yearning for reconciliation, their cosmopolitan "private dream" not shared by those in the divided countryside. In Kosovo, Hall finds a bearded Albanian passing as a Serb and maintaining an eight-year secret relationship with his girlfriend from home. Only in Kosovo, Hall observes, do old rural traditions remain intact despite the "self-vaunting" talk about Croat, Serb, or Muslim culture. Understandably incomplete as a tale of recent history, but a worthy aid to understanding Yugoslavia's demise. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Brian Hall
Brian Hall was born in 1959. He grew up in Massachusetts and attended Harvard College. After two years spent travelling in Western and Eastern Europe, he wrote Stealing from a Deep Place: Travels in South-Eastern Europe, and a novel set in Vienna, The Dreamers. From 1989 through 1991 he made several trips to Yugoslavia, in preparation for writing The Impossible Country. He currently lives in Ithaca, New York, with his wife and daughter.