Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (10/06)
Tony White's "Another Fool in the Balkans," subtitled "In the Footsteps of Rebecca
West," is a book that I had to read twice. Let me start by saying that it is a book that hit very close to home. Having been born and raised in Yugoslavia it is definitely a work that talks about the country of my youth, of people and places that are near to my heart and that are very well known to me. I had to read it twice, since I found it hard to believe that a `Westerner' could gain such deep understanding and deep appreciation of the melting, bubbling pot that is called the Balkans.
Tony White's collection of essays, dated between 1993 and 2005, touches on some of the most disturbing and difficult times that this part of the world went through. White tries to make some sense of the whole senseless mess, delving deep into history and talking to people who lived through the horrors of war. He tries to keep his descriptions balanced and fair although I am afraid that he will still manage to make some people upset. Such are the results of a political, fratricidal war, I am afraid.
His descriptions are vivid and colorful. I have a distinct feeling that he really immersed himself in the places he visited and events he participated in. At times he sounds slightly surprised, sometimes even amazed, but he never sounds judgmental or condescending. His descriptions of post-war Beograd and Zagreb made me cry more than once, his sketches of night-life and parties made me chuckle time and again. Both are so much part of my beloved Yugoslavia and both are written with infinite grace. White maintains a poise and elegance regardless of which facet of the Balkans he is writing about.
Obviously well researched and written with sensitivity and tact, this book should prove extremely enlightening to anybody who is brave enough to try and comprehend the Balkans. If this book whets your appetite to learn more, White included an absolutely fantastic Bibliography at the end of it. If it is not there, you probably don't have to read it. Once again, kudos to Tony White - "Another Fool in the Balkans" is by far the best work on the Balkans that I've ever read. And it made me put Rebecca West's Black Lamb and the Grey Falcon on my reading list - if it so greatly influenced White's writings, it should be real good.
Received book free of charge