As If I Am Not There Paperback – 4 Nov 1999
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Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, 27 March 1993. A newborn, a boy, is stretched out in his cot; to S., his mother, he is "supposed to be her son". He is, in fact, a "nameless little being ... condemned to death from the start". It's a stark, and startling, scene to open Slavenka Drakulic's fourth work of fiction, As If I Am Not There: A novel about the Balkans. This scene, which flies in the face of maternal feeling, invites the question why: Why does this woman, feeling only animosity for her child, imagine pressing a pillow gently over his face to end both his suffering and hers? Of course, he is a child of war: The novel's title announces that; more specifically, a child of rape. S., as we learn through the book, is a survivor of the "women's room", part of the camp in Bosnia where she, like so many other women, are raped over and over again in an act of war which will dispossess them of mind and body. It's some years now since Susan Brownmiller's classic Against Our Will depicted rape as an act of civic and sexual war against women but her feminist thesis agitates throughout this novel. "Drakulic takes us down into the very heart of the Balkan darkness", writes Michael Ignatieff; she does so by forcing her readers to look at the "way a body can be enslaved which is known only to women." Rape is one reference here; (unwanted) pregnancy is the other. This book is on the cusp between the literature of survival that frames its story--the opening epigraphs from Primo Levi, Eva Grlic, Varlam Shalamov-- and the special terror of an act of war which violates a woman and the child to whom she is fated to give life. -- Vicky Lebeau
Ghastly in its purist sense; read it in the kitchen if you dare (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
Celebratory in tone, The Taste of a Man is also a heartfelt, if unrepentant confession ... Drakulic does not disappoint (NEW STATESMAN)
It is a tribute to Drakulic's senstivity that we emerge from the desperate tale with a real feeling of hope. (THE TIMES)
Drakulic does not permit ignorance. The tale she tells is as bad as it gets... It isn't a hopeful tale, but it is a necessary one. Drakulic has taken the reader to places where CNN will never reach: she teaches lessons in horror and makes the unimaginable into something everyday. She does, however, have the wisdom to give hope and to leave S with something like a better ending. (SCOTSMAN)
A disturbingly insightful novel of love gone wrong ... gruesome and highly accomplished (Time Out)
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Top Customer Reviews
I am not an over sensitive reader,(I have been a Police Officer for 20 years)but this is an affecting book that I read in one sitting and will read again.Highly recommended.
I wish that everyone who failed to understand the Balkan wars and how neighbours turned on one another, reads and learns from this book. The atrocities and use of rape as weapons of war continues to this day in other countries. Slavenka Drakulic's words are as relevant and important today, as they were about what happened during the nineties.
The characters are all referred to only by an initial. I didn't entirely understand why - I felt it made the story harder to read, was sometimes confusing, and potentially reduced my ability to fully identify with the characters. The one-letter-only made them seem anonymous and less human, which may have been the intention, but as a reader I want to feel close to the characters.
The book describes how 'S' is taken from her home together with the other village women and children, one ordinary morning. It then narrates her life in the camp, details her release and journey to Sweden, and the birth if her child.
There are no punches pulled here. There are descriptions of rape and of murder, and of the various lesser horrors of the camp. Readers who have personal experience if these things and may find them more upsetting than others should think twice about reading.
For me, although it is uncomfortable reading and sad, it is a story that should be told and brings to light the terrible plight of women in that conflict but also is a reminder that rape is still used as a weapon in many wars right now. It is well written in quite a matter of fact style. The story is compelling and well paced and although it is hard hitting it is never gratuitous and does not in any way glamourise the events.
I would recommend this novel to readers who are prepared to read about this subject. But do think carefully first if you are, particularly if there is a risk of it opening old wounds for you.
Using ,rape as a weapon of war,should be labelled as a despicable war crime and the perpetrators and the so called leaders who actively encourage it,should be ,tried and punished ,how ever long it takes to track these cowards!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really good book, but it just ended...I kept flipping the page thinking there was more, but nothing. Still worth reading & gives good insight into that war & time.Published on 5 May 2014 by PinT
not what i exspected i think it is more for women than men,dragged out a bit to slow for my taste. (as if i`m not there)
yours ray v
This book, although a work of fiction, could easily be an account of what happened. I treat these people with therapy and these are the stories that are heard all the time. Read morePublished on 8 Dec. 2011 by S. Stretton