The Fracture Zone: A Return To The Balkans

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9780060195748: The Fracture Zone: A Return To The Balkans

Terrible things have been going on in the Balkans for centuries, and they are likely to go on for centuries more to come. It is an area of great contrasts -- geographically beautiful, yet the underlying crust of the region is cracked along great tectonic fault lines. These natural fault lines pale in comparison to the borders made by man, which have added further layers of complexity to a region where war is frequent, horrors are unspeakable, and history is unfathomable. It is not an area of the world that many would care to visit -- unless they had been there before.

Simon Winchester, a seasoned reporter, visited the region twenty years ago. During the recent Kosovo crisis, he remembered that first trip and the people he met, and he decided that parallel journeys might well be a device for explaining with sympathy the true nature of this fractured region. Two great capitals, Vienna and Istanbul, whose ceaseless imperial rivalries in the past played so profound a role in shaping the savage divisions of the region today, would anchor his second journey to the region.

With the war under way, he enlisted the aid of a linguist friend and set off from Vienna on a long, scimitar-shaped adventure through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, and Turkey, arriving at the Golden Horn just as the war was officially declared over. With luck, and through valuable personal contacts, Winchester managed to be in Macedonia on the day the NATO forces moved in to assume control of Kosovo -- and because the commanding general was an old friend, he rode in with the liberating columns of troops and armor.

This is not a book about the war, but rather an intimate portrait of the region painted while the war was going on. It is also an attempt to understand what has led this region to violence -- now, in the past, and inevitably again in the future. Written with a keen sense of time and place, The Fracture Zone is at once current and timeless. It goes behind the headlines and gives us a true picture of a region that has always been on the brink. Simon Winchester's remarkable journey puts all the elements together -- the faults, the fractures, and the chaos -- and makes sense out of a seemingly senseless place.

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Review:

Simon Winchester, a British newspaper reporter for 30 years and the author of 13 books (including The Professor and the Madman), has turned his attention to the Balkans, an area he visited years ago on a road trip from Vienna to Istanbul--a journey he retraced in the spring of 1999. The Fracture Zone describes both of those trips, concentrating on the history and character of the region more than the recent war and its aftermath. Winchester has spent most of his career as a foreign correspondent, but his more recent occupations as historian and a writer for Condé Nast Traveler are in evidence here. Winchester's angle on the Balkans is unique and well written: those who have been bewildered at best and bored at worst by the Balkan conflict may find that The Fracture Zone captures their interest better than hundreds of news accounts of war atrocities. "Why is there, and seemingly always has been, this dire inevitability about the Balkans being so fractious and unsettled a corner of the world?" Winchester wonders aloud. That eternal question continues to plague world statesmen and, though not fully answered here, affords the opportunity for an interesting exploration.

About the Author:

Simon Winchester is the acclaimed author of many books, including The Professor and the Madman, The Men Who United the States, The Map That Changed the World, The Man Who Loved China, A Crack in the Edge of the World, and Krakatoa, all of which were New York Times bestsellers and appeared on numerous best and notable lists. In 2006, Winchester was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Her Majesty the Queen. He resides in western Massachusetts.

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Book Description Harpercollins, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. 1st Edition. Simon Winchester visited the Balkans in 1978 and returned twenty years later to witness the crisis in Kosovo. A seasoned journalist, he traveled through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Turkey, arriving in the Golden Horn just as the war was declared over. This is his report. Includes Glossary and Dramatis Personae, drawn maps, Index, remainder mark. Published @ $20.00. Bookseller Inventory # 015838

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