Sudetic seamlessly combines the big picture of the Bosnian war, focused here on East Bosnia, with the experiences of the members of Bosniak relatives of his by marriage. He mainly lets the facts speak for themselves. The facts about the aggressors (Serbia and Republika Srpska) and about the reaction of the international community, particularly the UN and the protection force (UNPROFOR) as well as individual member states of the UN and the representatives on the ground with honourable exceptions are damning. The book demonstrates how power hungry politicians practicing limitless aggression can set up what iin the Bosnian constitution are called the its nations (Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks) against each other, leading to horrifying collective and individual abuses, culminating in the genocidal slaughter of the males of. Srebrenica. Details of life on the mountain where the family lived and their survival strategies during the war grant insight into life as it had been and the hell it became. One is also left with admiration for the pure grit of many members of the family.
Chuck Sudetic has written one of the most important books of the 1990s. I can attest from first-hand knowledge of the Balkans that this work is astonishingly unbiased, even as it is wrenching in its descriptions of the effects of an unwanted war on average men and women. By mid-book, the reader may begin to feel that too much detail has been accumulated on the families the author follows through the Bosnian nightmare--but then, in a matter of pages, the horror begins. First, comes a series of random cruelties, then broader atrocities, until the book climaxes in its unforgettable description of the siege and fall of Srebrenica, one of the worst (and most preventable) tragedies of our time. This is when the richness of the family saga begins to resound--Sudetic recreated a now-lost world then let us witness its destruction. It is a work of great commitment and honesty. This book captures the desperation, ignorance, cowardice, heroism, corruption and indestructible hopes of men and women swept up in a war they never fully comprehended. This, not the diplomatic headlines, is the bitter reality of our times for millions of human beings, from the Balkans to Indonesia. Sudetic is not an elegant stylist, but for the purposes of such a grim narrative, his "Joe Friday," deadpan prose serves far better than would a more self-consciously literary approach. While other fine books have been written about the self-destruction of Yugoslavia (Tom Gjelten's "Sarajevo Daily" comes to mind), I find "Blood and Vengeance" an indispensible work. By telling the intertwined stories of Muslim and Serb Orthodox families on one mountainside, Sudetic encapsulates the broad tragedy of a region. I cannot recommend this book too strongly, and feel it would better serve as a text for today's university students than a library full of theoretical works on international relations. Chuck Sudetic has captured the harshness of our world, as well as the ineradicable human will to survive, in a book that deserves far greater recognition than it has received. Please read this book--and give it as a gift to those around you who merit a richer understanding of the post-Cold War world. I only wish I could place a copy directly into the hands of each person reading this review.
Blood and Vengeance is a gripping account of the date of the unlucky people who were trapped in the Srebrenica "safe" zone. Like no other book, it details the extent of the massacres and the direct participation of ordinary citizens and Serbian higher ups in the massacre of thousands of civilians. A witness even places Gen. Mladic personally supervising executions in a vast killing field that went on for hours. The ineptitude and cowardice of the UN is truly bewildering. The author has trouble getting the story going. The narrative jumps abruptly from the daily life of a Bosnian Muslim family before the war, to the unfolding political events, to Balkan history and even the author's comings and goings. Much attention is paid to minute details, while fundamental areas are glossed over. It is not until the second half, when the featured Muslim Bosnian family is forced into Srebrenica, that everything comes into place. The unfolding international events begin to flow seamlessly into the personal story line, and the book ends up reading like the best (and saddest) of thrillers. Yet the question remains unanswered: How could your neighbor turn into your torturer overnigh
After reading tremendous books like David Rohde's "End Game," Holbrooke's "To End a War," Kaplan's "Balkan Ghosts," Rebecca West's "Black Lamb, Grey Falcon," Michael Sells' "A Bridge Betrayed," and a host of others, this one stands out as the very best yet written on Bosnia. Sudetic successfully weaves the macro policy issues with an in-the-trenches view of one family's experience in Srebrenica. The end product is a devastating indictment of the international community for allowing atrocities like this to occur again, after similar incidents occuring in WWII Germany, Post Vietnam Cambodia, Guatemala and Rwanda. After seeing the aftermath of Srebrenica's downfall in person and knowing many of the people involved, I can say that Sudetic has unquestionably written the definitive account of this tragic chapter in Bosnia's history.
Sudetic traces the story of an ordinary Bosniak family, from a mountain village just north of Višegrad, some of whose members fled to Srebrenica in the late summer of 1992. His account of the fate that befell them also includes quite a detailed analysis of the failures and stupidities of UN policy towards the Srebrenica 'safe area'. This is a very impressive book: unsentimental, unbiased, uncompromising in its assignment of blame (above all to Miloševic , Karadzic , Arkan, Mladic, Rose, Janvier and Akashi) and, in places, very moving. (This short review is from "Books on Bosnia" published by The Bosnian Institute)
The majority of Serbs who claim their massive crimes against humanity in the Balkans over the past 8 years are lies and propaganda, should read this book. They will feel shame and disgust, but it is about time they acknowledge the truth.
Chuck Sudetic has written the most important book on the war in Bosnia for those who would take the trouble to understand it.
What is extraordinary is that he manages to convey both the dark complexity of the Bosnian people and their history (the self-exculpating label used by the EU and UN as they sat by and tolerated mass murder) and the simple truth of Serb agression and expansionism in the late 20th century (something only Bill Clinton's White House and NATO would admit).
He clarifies the simplifications: there are multi-culturalist Serbs, Ustasha Muslims and Communist Croats, and not just one or two: inconvenient facts swept under the carpet of real-politik winner's history books.
He simplifies the confusions: the Greater Serbian dream, that drove Milosevic and the majority it took to vote him to power, was to create a mono-ethnic state (and for what?).
Like the people of Sarajevo at the recently held 20th commemoration of the seige I attended, I could not even cry: I felt I was there myself at the fall of the 'Safe Area' of Srebrenica and had to survive to the end.
I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, there will be war there again, and within 20 years if those who fired the snipers and mortar rounds are not brought to justice, and soon. Everyone knows who they are, and they are living comfortably in a Belgrade suburb with the lights on at night.
I worked in an orphanage during the war and this book is the most accurate sense of the horror and the helplessness we felt, whether we were onlookers, outsiders, insiders, victims or conscripted soldiers. The desperation...the heart of darkness all around.
[My (tiny) issue is that, although Sudetic spells out that what pushed the Muslims in their military skirmishes was a mixture of hunger, cold, fear, anger, revenge and madness, he is less psychologically perceptive about the Croats in Bosnia, whom he mentions, in passing, a handful of times. He forgets that Croatia's Srebrenica was Vukovar (a comparison made not only by me). The site of mass murder of men, women, children, the old and the infirm dragged from their hospital beds to mass graves. And that this occurred at the beginning of the Serbian war in Croatia, not the end as in Bosnia. No one in the 'civilised' west did anything or even bothered to notice until the holiday hot-spot Dubrovnik went up in blazes. This impacted extensively on the Croats hysterical (and deeply mistaken) war-within-a-war in Bosnia, and when Sudetic mentions them in passing a few times, he paints them with a crude brushstroke, when he should see their victim status more clearly.]
Chuck Sudetic has a family connection to this tale, because he is married to a Serbian woman from Belgrade whose sister married into a Bosnian Muslim family, the family of the title. Sudetic's story relates the Celik family's history from the beginnings of the twentieth century up until the fall of Srebrenica, during which the patriarch Huso Celik and his son-in-law Muhamed Halilovic disappeared, Muhamed probably being murdered on the same day his young wife gave birth to his son.
The book is based on extensive interviews with the surviving members of the Celik family as well as other inhabitants, Muslim and Serb, of this strife-torn eastern corner of Bosnia. Very readable and chilling, Blood and Vengeance details not only Serb atrocities against Muslims after the fall of Srebrenica, but also the preceding atrocities committed by Muslims against Serbs during the most recent war, and by Muslims and Ustase in the Second World War and earlier.
If you read only one book about Bosnia, about war, or about one writer trying to commemorate the countless victims of senseless slaughter, BLOOD AND VENGEANCE should be the book. This is the best, most devastating book I've read in years; something every American who cares about what's happening in the world must read--now.
Blood and Vengeance by Chuck Sudetic is an excellent read from start to finish. You view the war in Bosnia from the viewpoint of a few Bosnian families. But the this does not descend into anecdotal folk history. The story builds gradually to the terrible dénouement that is/was Srebrenica and the writer uses beautiful English. The writing is at times what people might call lyric and I can say that I looked forward to each new chapter. I woul dthoroughly recommend it as a rich, humanly interesting account of a terrible recent tragedy.