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Madness Visible: A Memoir of a War Hardcover – 19 Jan 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (19 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747560560
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747560562
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Times' senior foreign correspondent, Janine di Giovanni's Madness Visible is powerful, dramatic and tragic. War is often as absurd as it is brutal, as squalid and meaningless as it is destructive. As Giovanni says, "[h]alf of a soldier's life is boredom. The other half is unexpected." Whilst this is often heartbreaking reportage (which should be read if only to further bring home the horror of a war that raged in at the end of the 20th century in the middle of Europe) it is not a great book if the reader is seeking deeper understanding of the historical events. The weaknesses lie in Giovanni's lack of a historical and political overview-–this is often surprisingly contextless violence. While we anecdotally-–and consequentially--learn much about the war as we pass through its victims' stories, Giovanni offers little analysis about how the war happened, how the response to it could have been better handled, and whether or not it could have been prevented. Giovanni is often in danger of ridiculing the gang of Serbs who initially holed up in Pale to direct the war (Koljevic, Karadzic) or those who took part in Dayton (Milosovic, Biljana Plavsic), thus threatening to disenable our ability to see how their violent nationalistic hypocrisy was allowed to flower. There is a concomitant danger in the book when it suggests that clever middle-class outsider children, whose parents were disenfranchised by the old communists, held a grudge for years that suddenly boiled over. While there maybe something to these psychologisms (they echo some of what is sometimes said of the Nazis) it actually sheds very scant light on the nature of human evil and the nature of a the historical/political context that allows it to flourish.

The great strength of the book is that Giovanni allows the (mostly Bosnian) voices of the Balkans to speak. If her sometimes clichéd journalese grates, somehow this never makes the book any the less powerful. While there are better books on the Balkans (Misha Glenny and Noel Malcolm are both good starting points) this has the advantage of being very current (Giovanni writes some dispatches, looking back at the war, continuing to interview those still hugely, horribly affected by it, in 2000), very moving and very humane. --Mark Thwaite


"Janine di Giovanni is superb - an extraordinarily brave war correspondent and a wonderful writer as well." - -- WILLIAM SHAWCROSS

"Wholly memorable, entirely unsettling: one of the best pieces of reportage to come from the Balkan abattoir." -- Kirkus Review

If you read no other book about the Balkan wars, read this one.’ -- Philip Caputo

‘A harrowing firsthand account of a region’s spiral into madness.’ -- Publishers Weekly

‘Janine DiGiovanni has described war in a way that almost makes me think it never needs to be described again.' -- Sebastian Junger

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ms di Giovanni writes wonderfully well, I was particularly impressed by her very clear eye for the telling detail. She's obviously a very brave woman who is determined to tell the truth, and she deserves enormous credit for that, as others have said in their reviews.
The one thing that spoils the effect of the book is the very poor (possibly non-existent) editing. The book is obviously assembled from Ms di Giovanni's despatches, and that’s the problem: the book desperately needed someone to edit out the repeat references – for example, I lost count of the number of times that we are told that Milosevic led Serbia to defeat four times in ten years. Of course that’s true, but it distracts from the content of the book to keep running across such references. And that’s the real shame: her writing is so good that it deserves much better treatment than that, and I hope she’s given the production team at Bloomsbury a rocket for such a poor effort.
Despite what I’ve written above, I urge people to read the book – and also Anthony Loyd’s wonderful ‘My War Gone By, I Miss It So,’ one of the best books I’ve read about the Bosnian conflict.
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By A Customer on 25 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
It would be wrong to expect enjoyment from this book. It is not supposed to offer us, the readers, pleasure. For that we should look elsewhere. This book is an indictment and an explanation. It shows and tells who did what and why. How can people who were once neighbours and close friends butcher each other with gay abandon? Ms Giovanni does not know and says she is not qualified to say. Instead she lets the people, the guilty and the innocent, tell all. Some journalists glory in themselves, as if they were the most important people. Not Mrs Giovanni. Modest and shy she is almost invisible, a glass through who we see the Balkans. She never intrudes as a witness. This is reporting of the first rank. It would have been easy for her, a young and beautiful woman, to write herself into the story. She resists this temptation. She should write another and more personal book, explaining how she felt to watch such horrors.
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By A Customer on 16 Jan. 2004
Format: Hardcover
To those of us who only knew Yugoslavia from our holidays it came as a bit of a shock when its peoples turned on each other with such savagery. Mrs di Giovanni was there to see all this. Writing from the heart with a winsome honesty she says she was the typical society beauty before she went to write about the war. What she saw changed her and made her realise her vocation was to bear witness with candour. She proffers no easy solutions about what happened. She does not know why. It is not for her to say why people do such things to each other. Her job is to say what happened and let us decide for ourselves. This is a superb book by a woman who has come to motherhood late.
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