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“A tragic portrait . . . presented with sympathy and frequently with humor . . . [of] a disparate people who were never united except by their resentment of a foreign conqueror.” – Atlantic Monthly
In The Impossible Country, Brian Hall relates his encounters with Serbs, Croats, and Muslims— “real people, likeable people” who are now overcome with suspicion and anxiety about one another. Hall takes the standard explanations, the pundits’ predictions, and the evening news footage and inverts our perceptions of the country, its politics, its history, and its seemingly insoluble animosities.
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Brian Hall is the author of three novels, including I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company, his acclaimed story of the Lewis and Clark expedition, as well as three works of nonfiction.From Kirkus Reviews:
An incisive and affecting Yugoslavian travelogue from May to mid-September 1991, just as the country split up and its former republics went to war. Hall (Stealing from a Deep Place, 1988, etc.) professes no solutions for the current Balkan trauma. Rather, he offers an elegy of sorts for the promise of humanism and an eyewitness account of the balkanization of mind and action. ``Even intellectuals in Yugoslavia tend to think the truth is not only knowable, but obvious,'' Hall writes, and he unravels that in lively scenes and portraits, mostly of ordinary people but also of Serbian president Slobodan Miloevi and the wearied Bosnian leader, Alija Izetbegovi. He describes the weirdness of Sarajevo television news, the slant of the stories dependent on the reporter's ethnicity. He traces the tortured rationalizations behind Croatians' defense of their not-so-unique language. He suggests that supportive audience members give a Serbian opposition press conference the feel of a revival meeting. Hall has a good grasp of the ironies of history (the Serbs claim the legacy of both the partisans and the Chetniks, who opposed each other in WW II) and of the present (Croatia's leading antidemocrats aren't home-grown- -they're ‚migr‚s from Australia and Canada). In multiethnic Bosnia, the microcosm of Yugoslavia, he drinks local-style coffee with Sarajevans yearning for reconciliation, their cosmopolitan ``private dream'' not shared by those in the divided countryside. In Kosovo, Hall finds a bearded Albanian passing as a Serb and maintaining an eight-year secret relationship with his girlfriend from home. Only in Kosovo, Hall observes, do old rural traditions remain intact despite the ``self-vaunting'' talk about Croat, Serb, or Muslim culture. Understandably incomplete as a tale of recent history, but a worthy aid to understanding Yugoslavia's demise. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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