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Madness Visible: A Memoir of War (Vintage) [Paperback]

Janine Di Giovanni

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Book Description

8 Feb 2005 Vintage
As a senior foreign correspondent for The Times of London, Janine di Giovanni was a firsthand witness to the brutal and protracted break-up of Yugoslavia. With unflinching sensitivity, Madness Visible follows the arc of the wars in the Balkans through the experience of those caught up in them: soldiers numbed by 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.

Di Giovanni’s searing memoir examines the turmoil of the Balkans in acute detail, and uncovers the motives of the leaders who created hell on earth; it raises challenging questions about ethnic conflict and the responsibilities of foreign governments in times of mass murder. Perceptive and compelling, this unique work of reportage from the physical and psychological front lines makes the madness of war wholly visible.

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Madness Visible: A Memoir of War 7 Oct 2005
By Tim Judah - Published on Amazon.com
Perhaps the most bizarre incident recounted in Janine di Giovanni's tales of war comes at a time of peace. She is in Sarajevo, six years after the end of the war, and a radio station in Cape Town wants to interview her about a piece she has written for her newspaper, the Times. To her horror the interviewer asks her about snipers and aid convoys, as though the Bosnian war was still in full swing. The fact that it had ended had simply passed the South African by. "It was my obsession," she writes, but not that of others.

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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Madness Visible: A Memoir of War 4 Oct 2005
By B. von Hase - Published on Amazon.com
Di Giovanni shows war from a deeply personal perspective; there are few books that bring the horror so vividly to life. The most harrowing stories in this book are particularly devastating to me as a German reader: it seems there were few lessons learnt from WW2, and no end to the atrocities human beings can inflict on each other. Di Giovanni deals sensitively with a difficult subject matter, and illuminates its historical context brilliantly.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Madness Visible: A Memoir of War 1 Oct 2005
By LeRoy Woodson Jr - Published on Amazon.com
Madness Visible : A Memoir of War is one of those rare

books where the author focuses on the victims-women

and children-and how they were caught between the

fires of opposing forces. She explains how the wars

cut a violent swath through the fabric of Balkan

society and culture, how rape became an instrument of

war to be used against Moslem women, in particular,

for whom the shame of rape and the children rapes

produced rendered their lives all but unbearable. Ms.

Di Giovanni allows readers to experience the tragedy

of the Balkans Wars intimately and unforgettably.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to

understand the horrors visited upon innocent

populations who fall victim to the lust for power of a

handful of arrogant leaders the West could not or

would not contain. There is enough blame to go around

for everyone who had anything to do with bringing the

world the Balkan Wars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A. Donn 9 Oct 2005
By A. Donn - Published on Amazon.com
Madness Visible is a powerful and extremely moving account of war. It reads like a novel, but its not and this is also why it's so harrowing. So much is contained in a sentence, on a page (action, danger , fear , sorrow) that sometimes you feel compelled to put it down and re-read the passage over, just to be able to take it all in. Janine di giovanni is able to give us unobstructed access to the frontline of war.Is it possible that human beings in our world should continue to be subjected to so much madness and suffering?
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Madness Visible: A Memoir of War 3 Oct 2005
By A. Branca - Published on Amazon.com
An unflinching and gripping portrayal of the Balkan War, Janine di Giovanni's book shows us just how quickly normality can descend into madness, propeling a civilised society into brutal mayhem. One becomes so engrossed in this book, listening to the victims as they lay their stories bare, it is easy to forget that di Giovanni herself was on the front line, narrowly escaping death a few times. The stories she tells are unforgettable (the rape victims, Koljevic, the Shakespeare scholar who became Milosevic's puppet, Biljana Plavsic, the Iron Lady of the Balkans) the images she conjures powerful and haunting.

A must read.
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