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Through the Embers of Chaos: Balkan Journeys [Paperback]

Dervla Murphy
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 July 2003

While bicycling hundreds of miles through beautiful yet tragically depopulated regions of Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Dervla stayed with families forcibly uprooted, their lives devastated by murder and pillage. Conversations revealed the griefs and confusions of ordinary people, many of whom were extraordinarily brave and resilient during the 'decade of decay'.

Throughout her travels, Dervla tries to make sense of the confusing history and politics of the area. Through the Embers of Chaos is an extraordinary achievement; it describes a journey that demanded the greatest emotional and physical stamina (not least as she was attacked and robbed three times in Albania). The result is a truly unusual view on the Balkan countryside.

Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New edition edition (3 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719565103
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719565106
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Dervla Murphy is a brave woman and a great travel writer (The Spectator)

A timely and important account of a catastrophically razed corner of Europe. Dervla Murphy wears her erudition lightly, weaving personal anecdote into enduring reportage. She talks to ordinary people trapped beneath the crust of former dictatorships, and is respectful of their past suffering. (Ian Thomson, Sunday Times)

Generosity is a quality which shines throughout Murphy's work. But she is no soft touch or bleeding-heart liberal. While she exudes compassion and empathy she can be formidably hard-headed and short with bullshitters. In her latest - perhaps finest - book she has her fair share of hairy moments. Invariably, she is prepared to stand her ground with bullies. (Alan Taylor, Glasgow Sunday Herald)

Murphy isn't your average travel hack - she insists on travelling by bicycle, or on foot. Her bike isn't a comic prop, as in those lightweight travelogues where men lug fridges around foreign parts for a laugh, but a way of getting closer to her subject ... As events in Afghanistan demonstrate, a war's end is only the beginning of a long, often dangerous struggle to re-establish normality. In its personal, humane, angry way, Through the Embers shows just how rocky that road can be. (Matthew Collin, The Guardian)

Dervla Murphy vividly conveys the bleak decay of post-war small-town life, remarkably similar in its combination of despair and bigotry whereever she goes (Time Literary Supplement)

Book Description

The indomitable Dervla Murphy's latest travels on bicycle through the hazards of the former Yugoslavia, seeing at first hand the results of war and the war crimes.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Kranky
I read this following an introduction to the author via her book, 'Through Siberia'. Whilst she has some valid points to make about the world community's response to Kosovo and the Balkan crisis, and rightly makes them, on a purely personal level (and I have some pretty similar political ideas as the author), this is not what I chose this book for and I found the points she made a little repetitive. What I did enjoy was her representation of the views and lives of the people she met, and the 'journey' she undertook. This was a part of the book I really enjoyed, but I found myself skimming some of the more obscure historical notes and authors repeated opinion, to find these.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. 24 Mar 2006
Dervla Murphy at her nigh-on incomparable best here, proving once again that the most effective way to find out about people in a foreign country is to travel around it by bike. As was the case with 'Ukimwi Road', her comments are spot-on and make excellent food for thought; the sort of book that ought to be recommended reading for political decision-makers! Probably the best Balkan travelogue since 'Black Lamb and Grey Falcon'.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Too much diatribe 29 Dec 2013
By HTin
Anyone familiar with Dervla Murphy's books will know that she is a tough and courageous woman, and she needed to be to make this trip in the former Yugoslavia at the time she did. Unfortunately the book contains far too much of her own repeated criticism of the 'international community' and aid agencies. Better editing would have lessened the diatribe, and resulted in a more balanced book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cyclists know the joy of being *with* a place 13 Nov 2010
By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
In this brilliant, densely written and highly detailed book, Dervla Murphy tells the story of two journeys in the former Yugoslavia after the country fell apart at the seams. It is a story about how the Balkan conflict began and traversed towards tremendous ecological damage (pollution, landmines, birth defects, etc.) and the deaths of thousands. It is the story of how the conflict escalated until there were Milosevic's special police, incipient war-lords, neo-Chetniks in Montenegro, KLA gangsters in Kosovo, warmed-up Nazi's in Croatia, Muslim mercenaries fighting on the Serb's side in Bosnia - not to be confused with other forces which came to operate in the region: the armija (Bosnian Muslim army), the Bosnian Serb army, the HV (Croatian army) the HVO (Bosnian Croat army), and the SARSK (Serbian Army of the Republic of Srpska Krajina) all fighting at various times of the four years of the conflict. And let's not forget NATO, the bombing, the raping and the concentration camps. All of this in a region where the different ethnic communities had lived in peace for hundreds of years.

Dervla Murphy's journeys by bike were undertaken 1999 and 2000, after the peace had been declared (in 1994), but her book describes how old wounds were still raw, people's lives had been wrecked, their new lives were still provisional. The cities were often still bomb-damaged, the countryside was largely dirt poor. Yet Dervla Murphy, this immensely brave older lady (she is a grandmother), rode her bike from one village to another, one city to the next, because she wanted to know what had happened and what the people felt about what had happened and how they were living now.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 24 May 2013
By bub
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book was purchased for a good friend who has read the other books by this author. She loved the story and quality of the book.
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