Monday, 23 February 2015 00:00

Good Reads – Conflicted about conflicts

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In this Good Reads issue, E&M’s Diána Vonnák shares with you some articles that got her thinking about our continent. Follow her to discover the multiple ways descendants of victims and perpetrators deal with genocide as well as inside some bits of Bosnian literature about the human facets of the war. And make sure you read it till the end, because there you can find an interesting article analysing Maidan and its revolutionary potential, all framed in a personal way.




Diána Vonnák, managing editor


When Bosnia was at war: self-appointed humanitarians in Sarajevo


Recently I had a chance to visit Sarajevo, this incredible city still somewhat scarred by the horrors of an inhumane siege and yet full of the mundane signs of moving on: the smell of coffee, strolling tourists and lazy stray dogs. Those bloody years in the ´90s were my only childhood exposure to the fact that war could happen so close, and ever since it proved to be a returning theme, as I would assume it has for many of my generation. It came as a coincidence, then, that in the recent issue of Asymptote Magazine I came across a letter exchange between Miljenko Jergović and Semezdin Mehmedinović

Both of them being in the forefront of Bosnian literature they try to get closer to one of the iconic interactions the Anglophone world knows about the war: Susan Sontag's visits and her solidarity with Bosnian people. Jergović recalls Sontag’s visit to his mother, in search for an ‘ordinary resident’ who could give an honest angle to her understanding of the war. Throwing away and thus wasting barely lit up cigarettes by the dozen in the middle of a war-torn city, Sontag acted as an emblem of failed self-appointed humanitarians: she was incapable of turning the war, the object of her amusement and horror, back to what it was - a challenge of empathy where stepping in requires real silence on your side and a readiness to let others’ lives creep into the place of yours.

Bosnia war
Photo: Dennis Jarvis. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina: the visible signs of the armed conflict of the '90s are everywhere

Reflecting on genocide: the perspective of victims’ and perpetrators’ descendants


Being caught up in questions of war, empathy and memory I tumbled across Paul Salopek’s recent post from Anatolia. Paul set out on a seven year long pedestrian journey around the world, reporting in a pace slow enough to match the rhythm of walking what he calls Out of Eden Walk and which is published in National Geographic. After crossing much of Eastern Turkey he stopped to contemplate on "What We Talk About When We Talk About Genocide". Instead of analysing state-level gestures of political rhetoric, Salopek takes time to look at the multiple ways local descendants of victims and perpetrators deal with the historical baggage in a landscape still marked by reminders of the conflict.


When Maidan becomes a personal search



Finally, to conclude this somewhat sad reflective series I chose to highlight Peter Pomerantsev’s recent essay in the London Review of Books. Pomerantsev himself has as an ancestry as messy as that of Maidan's and equally difficult to build a singular identity upon. When he tries to understand what is happening in Ukraine he cannot but become entangled in questions about his own identity.

After almost dismissing the possibility of revolutions after the overuse of the term in the last few decades, which reduced the word to a mere ornament of political technology, he hesitantly starts to address the Maidan as the fight for the possibility of a real revolution. Many have said a great deal about the Maidan and Pomerantsev is quick to admit local reluctance to the overabundance of Western ‘understandings’, but what makes his text extremely interesting is not so much the details and well-used perspectives, but his hesitant move from an outsider to someone who cannot but embrace the events and now has to choose his own form of utopia, however reluctant he is to do so.

Last modified on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 17:43

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