Customer Review

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarity imposed on complexity - Superb!, 25 Oct 2001
This review is from: The Balkans 1804-1999: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers (Paperback)
In one splendid volume which reads with the pace and interest of a well-written thriller, Mr.Glenny does the near impossible, conveying the complexities of two centuries of Balkan history with clarity and grace. The scope is breathtaking and no important themes - and few lesser ones - are left uncovered, with explanations not provided not only of their internal Balkan context but of their relationships to the greater European picture. Notwithstanding the fact that the overall story is a depressing one, with hatred, greed and massacre as defining features of almost every decade covered, and with not a single ethnic group or nationality emerging with credit, the power of the writing is such as to carry the reader along and to enjoy - if the word can ever be appropriate in this connection - the sweep of the narrative. Having read this book once straight through however, the reader interested in the area will find themselves returning to it repeatedly to check specific facts. Its particular value is the extent to which it takes events that are peripheral to the wider course of European History, and which are treated in isolation in so many other works, and dropped once their relevance to the larger picture fades, and instead follows them through in detail and explores their significance to the sweep of Balkan history. This is one of the few books of its type that one would have desired to have been longer, rather than shorter, and one would have wished for a yet more extended treatment of major events such as the First and Second Balkan Wars. On only one point would the present reviewer take issue with the writer. This is in relation to the thesis stated in the introduction that the role of the Western Powers had been a greater factor than hitherto recognised in the hopeless cycle of revenge and atrocity that characterises modern Balkan history. Mr.Glenny's masterful account of the greed, intolerance and self-destructive blindness of the societies he portrays is its own refutation of this contention. This observation aside, this is a superb piece of accessible narrative history.
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