HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

S.: A Novel About the Balkans by Slavenka…
Loading...

S.: A Novel About the Balkans (original 1999; edition 2001)

by Slavenka Drakulic, Marko Ivic (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
250645,873 (3.92)44
Member:Chatterbox
Title:S.: A Novel About the Balkans
Authors:Slavenka Drakulic
Other authors:Marko Ivic (Translator)
Info:Penguin (2001), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Fiction, In Translation, Paperback

Work details

S.: A Novel about the Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic (1999)

  1. 10
    Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: A book set at the end of WW2 in Germany on the East front. Women are forced to choose between 'volunteering' to become official army whores or remain in the concentration camps.
  2. 00
    We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch (Booksloth)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 44 mentions

English (5)  Dutch (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
When your country is at war with another, or perhaps many others, you are aware of the risk to human life. You know soldiers will die, you know that some of these may be people you know or even your loved ones. But, though the civilians at home worry about those who are away fighting for their country, they rarely see themselves as part of the war. The threat to them seems far away, almost unreal. So when the occupying forces marched into the Bosnian village where S. lived, her immediate reaction is not of panic. She is mildly annoyed for having been woken up, but she still has faith in the human capacity for reason and she believes that if she surrenders her jewellry and valuables without making a fuss, then no one will do her any harm. In other words, she is naive.

The civilians are captured and taken away to work camps, one for men and one for women. But deep within the female camp is the room that every prisoner dreads - the women's room. A room where women become objects to be used by the soldiers, a room of pain and despair where all hope dies and a person is forced to become empty. Being empty in your mind, abandoning your body at will, this is the only way to survive. Drakulic shows the extent of human depravity in one of the most disturbing accounts of captivity during wartime. Her use of the first letter in place of the women's names is important in understanding the ability to dehumanize the enemy, they become things and not people. It is repulsive, scary and sad.

But the author, in my opinion, never slips over into the gratuitous because her focus is on S.'s inner turmoil. It is not just about the sexual abuse, the beatings and cruelty, it's about the effect this has on the victims, how they retreat inside themselves and the lengths they go to in order to keep their sanity in a world gone mad. Not only that, but she even looks at what it's like to be a soldier blindly following orders, dehumanizing yourself to find the ability to commit atrocities during war. It's easy to have enemies and it's easy to hate, but what does it take to make you someone who can torture another human being? What must they become in your mind? What must you become?

When showing the crimes men commit towards women, when showing a group of male soldiers laughing at a woman's pain, it becomes so easy to delve into misandry. You hate the Serbian soldiers, you hate the things they do to the women. But this is only partly a gender issue. Drakulic wants to tell the many untold stories of women during the Bosnian war (there are an estimated 60,000 rape victims), she wants us to know about the suffering they faced because of their gender. But, for the author, humanity has one common enemy regardless of your race, religion or gender... and that is war. War makes us all something other than human, it allows those with the power to become monstrous and it allows those without it to be seen as vermin.

Though the author chose to focus on the Bosnian war and particularly the way women were treated during this war, the backbone of this story is universally applicable. She expertly tells a story about some of the vilest, most horrific things that can happen to a human being, she captures humanity at it's best and worst, showing exactly what we are capable of - both the good and the bad. ( )
  emleemay | Mar 30, 2013 |
This is probably the most harrowing book I've read this year, but one that I found hard to put down, so eager was I to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

It tells the story of S., a Bosnian schoolteacher, taken one day in the summer of 1992 from her village to a Serbian prison camp. Before long, she is moved to the "women's room", where a group of women prisoners are placed at the mercy of the Serb soldiers' "needs". Since the novel begins with S. looking back on her horrific and somehow unreal experiences, we know that she is, in some sense, one of the "lucky" ones, and yet it is a far from conventional definition of "lucky". I read several of the pages with my hand over my mouth in horror, but the prose is spare and matter-of-fact, reflecting the fact that rape, murder, torture and humiliation had become normality in the context of the war in Yugoslavia.

This is a far from pleasant read, but it is an extremely important reminder of how easily we can descend into inhumanity and that we must guard against it at all costs.
  Rebeki | Jun 15, 2010 |
I found this book browsing a used store. It looked interesting and the subject was certainly meaty. It looks at the inhumanity of war, from the POV of a non-combatant and victim. The inability of one person to make a difference in the determined chaos of an almost matter of fact hatred. How life and routines crumble in the face of a stronger reality when enforced by violence.

The story is set in Yugoslavia I think, ( in one of the splintered parts, Bosnia). It is set during the war and told from the POV, of S., a Muslim woman who was a prisoner of war.

It is the story of her capture and internment in a camp. She is an educated woman from the capital, working in a peasant village as a substitute teacher at their school. Because she is young and pretty she ends up in the camp's Women's Room. Where they keep woman the guards want to have sex with. And not just sex, because they are disposable women not protected by law, some are beaten, tortured, mutilated and even killed.

S. talks about what happens around her, how the men and older boys are taken out and shot, both at the collection point, and later from the men's camp. How the women react to the situation. They are herded into a large empty space with a concrete pad: no beds, no bathrooms, no heat, little food. Some come together to help each other and some begin to prey on each other especially the weak. Through it all the guards and prison officials are
shadowy menaces. There seems to be very little actual hate, and in fact that is for me the biggest problem with the book. Its rather limp.

All the names of Bosnians are just initials; Others are listed by their profession - there is very little humanity in any of the characters, even the victims. The hate from the Serbs (?) is muted, the pain, fear and horror from the victims is muted. They just seem bland and confused. The author is more concerned about the class differences between the educated, classy S. and the ignorant, coarse, peasant woman from the village. Religion is not really explored, and no one in the book seems particularly religious.

Not that I want to read graphic descriptions, and wallow in it, but with such a powerful subject, I should have a much more emotional reaction.

There is also little attempt to explain or understand why neighbors are suddenly turning on neighbors. So the author doesn't do a good job with the emotional content, and s/he doesn't handle the reasons for the war and the hatred.

The women in S.'s camp are exchanged for prisoners the Bosnians had, and they end up in a Bosnian refugee camp, waiting to be resettled. They can't return to their homes because they have been taken by the Serbs, or destroyed. People are waiting for relatives to take them in (though many like S. have had their families killed) or for foreigners to take them in.

The result of the rapes is that a lot of the woman are pregnant, and so is S. The pregnancy is a visible sign of their abuse, and a death sentence for either the women or their attempt to return to their community and have a normal life. The women are blamed for their dishonor, and the author doesn't really deal with that either. S. finds out too late for an abortion, and so she must deal with the alien life in her body. She comes to hate it and wants it gone as soon as it is born.

She applies to go to Sweden as a refugee and is accepted. She meets a former classmate there, who eases her into a quick settlement from the Swedish refugee camp. The story follows her life in Sweden until the birth of her child. Of course there is a redemptive ending, which I found bogus in terms of real life.

I found the depiction of S. to be good and probably accurate for a survivor of such a horror: she is numb and muted. The problem is, it makes for a pale story. It isn't a bad book, in fact its quite good, but it seemed it could have been so much more. ( )
1 vote FicusFan | Nov 29, 2009 |
an immensely disturbing book about the systematic rape of Muslim women in during the war in Bosnia in 1992-95. Written as a first-hand account of a woman known only as "S", it tells of the horrors, the unspeakable that a group of "chosen" girls had to go through night after night, that is, if they manage to survive the brutality of the soldiers. After release, she discovers she is pregnant but as with others who too got pregnant, there was no way to tell who was the father. For many of these girls, there was really no choice as to what to do with the infant as soon as it is delivered. This is the enemy's child, not hers. But this is the point of the other side, to spread his seed among the enemy, another way of obliterating them --- the greatest humiliation.

A well-acclaimed book, it is a work of fiction, but based on real stories of countless women that the author had met and talked to. Indeed, we in the outside world, know very little about these, as very little documentation exists -- no one is willing to talk, the women bear their scars and wounds silently and more so since these things are taboo in their Muslim culture (CNN's Untold Stories, though, featured this issue some time ago). War is cruel and brings out the worst in man, but depending on how one looks at it, the story at the end, offers some hope of redemption.

Not an easy read at all, but highly recommended. The book is slim (about 200 pages), the chapters short but it took me 4 days to finish it. I found it impossible to read straight through -- it gets too heavy going sometimes, that i have had to stop after a few pages, and come back only much much later when i felt i had enough "strength" again to get ahead. ( )
2 vote deebee1 | Oct 30, 2009 |
This novel takes a harsh look at the realities of war for those left living in a battleground and eventually collected, used, abused, and displaced. The loss of a home, the horrors of a camp, the disturbing weilding of unchecked power, and the strength it takes to push through day by day are front and center in this book. Although serious and not appropriate for younger readers due to the physical and sexual violence - it is an amazing read, which will open your eyes to the horrors of a war often overlooked and the necessity to never let it happen again. ( )
1 vote Monkeypats | Aug 12, 2009 |
Showing 5 of 5
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Slavenka Drakulicprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dokter, ReinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
It is an intense pleasure, physical, inexpressible, to be at home, among friendly people and to have so many things to recount: but I cannot help noticing that my listeners do not follow me. In fact, they are completely indifferent: they speak confusedly of other things among themselves, as if I was not there. My sister looks at me, gets up and goes away without a word.

PRIMO LEVI, If This is a Man
And quite unconsciously, perhaps precisely because of the exaggerated sense of fear, I felt at times as if this was not me at all, as if it was happening to somebody else, and everything I ahd seen was actually part of some other, unreal world.

Grlić, Eva Memoirs
A human being survives by his ability to forget. VARLAM SHALAMOV, Kolyma Tales
Dedication
First words
The child is lying naked in his cot.
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140298444, Paperback)

"While she was in the warehouse S. feared uncertainty. Any kind of certainty seemed preferable to her. Now she was at least rid of that fear. There was no more uncertainty. She was in a storehouse of women, in a room where female bodies were stored for the use of men."

The use of rape as a mode of warfare was one of the atrocities that made "ethnic cleansing" such a horrifying euphemism in the '90s. The number of Muslim rape victims has been hard to establish (estimates are as high as 60,000), and the depths of the damage even more difficult to comprehend. Hidden behind the newspaper accounts--the mind-numbing policy changes, drawn and redrawn borders, and fluctuating statistics--are the stories of what happened to thousands of Muslim women and how they have since dealt with their experience. In S: A Novel About the Balkans, the journalist Slavenka Drakulic uses a fictional everywoman, S., to convey the complex psychological torture of the victims of large-scale, systematic rape during the Bosnian War.

Drakulic's plain, graphic prose is starkly effective; not surprisingly, her book is most powerful in the passages detailing the women's treatment by the cadres of Serbian soldiers. But S. is not just a passive victim: even in such conditions, there are moral choices that must be made and consequences to one's actions. S. discovers this through her "arrangement" with the camp commander, who chooses her for a more elaborate form of rape that involves candlelight dinners and her playing the role of a seductress. Submitting to the fantasy in order to remove herself from the gang rapes of the "women's room," S. refrains from using her new status to improve the lot of the other prisoners. The tradeoff risks the respect of her fellow victims ("You've sold yourself cheap," one of them says to her), and the future psychological cost isn't clear. When she discovers she is pregnant--the father could be any one of a hundred soldiers--she faces another set of difficult decisions. Should she bring a child born of such hate into the world? And should she tell the child about its origins? Or is she instead obliged to tell the truth about the war? "Which is the greater," she wonders, "the right to a father or the right to the truth." Though not overtly political, S. forces us to consider the long-term tragedy of the female victims of the Bosnian War, and is all the more valuable for its inclusion of these gray-area compromises and their painful aftereffects. --John Ponyicsanyi

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:01 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

No library descriptions found.

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
76 wanted
5 pay1 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.92)
0.5
1 2
1.5
2 1
2.5 1
3 6
3.5 1
4 16
4.5 5
5 10

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 91,636,377 books! | Top bar: Always visible