Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Sarajevo Daily" by Tom Gjelten [3]

[Note: Because I'm so busy with graduate school, I'm going to be realistic about how much time I can devote to this blog on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, I'm going to continue this review as I can; sometimes I may only summarize part of a chapter just to keep things moving. I hope my readers will understand.]
Chapter 1: Bloodlines
The chapter opens with Oslobodjenje reporter Senka Kurtovic--a "Croat" who was ethnically half-Muslim, quarter-Croat, and quarter-Jewish, and whom had identified herself as "Dutch" in the last Yugoslav census to protest the requirement to declare a nationality--meeting with her Serb boyfriend, a radio announcer, the night before the now-infamous peace march of April 5, 1992, when gunmen with the SDS fired on peaceful protesters, symbolically beginning the war in Sarajevo. Senka notices that her boyfriend is distant, and when he tells her that she needs to go home, she becomes frustrated that he won't explain himself. He drops her off, and they never speak to each other again.

The rest of the chapter explains how and why religious identity is so closely identified with ethnic identity in a country where almost everybody is Slavic and few are devoutly religious. The explanation is a reasonably brisk and accurate history of Bosnia and the South Slavs (Gjelten, writing in 1996, accepted the argument that the Bosnian church was Bogomil, although I accept Noel Malcolm's argument on this point) from the early Middle Ages to the present day; his account won't contain anything new to readers of this blog and therefore I won't analyze it in depth. Suffice it to say, Gjelten understands the basic dynamic of Serb, Croat, and Muslim national identities and the historical context in which they were developed. This book was published in 1995 for a general readership--this is necessary context for the audience, and I'm pleased both that Gjelten includes it, and that he gets it right.

The chapter concludes by noting that the gunmen were arrested, and then released as part of a deal. Karadzic already comes across as the bombastic, racist terrorist he would soon prove to be. And Sanka's boyfriend? It would turn out that he had been collaborating with the SDS for some time; and he would go on to work for Bosnian Serb television in Pale. Two days after the attack, she would see him on TV, working as a news announcer and beginning his broadcast by greeting "Good evening, my dear Serb people."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kirk, of course we understand you proceeding at your own pace. We're grateful to you for offering us the benefit of your wider reading, it's much appreciated.