HomeGroupsTalkMoreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (1993)

by Robert D. Kaplan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,5932911,411 (3.83)25
From the assassination that triggered World War I to the ethnic warfare in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, the Balkans have been the crucible of the twentieth century, the place where terrorism and genocide first became tools of policy. Chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, and greeted with critical acclaim as 'the most insightful and timely work on the Balkans to date'-The Boston Globe, Kaplan's prescient, enthralling, and often chilling political travelogue is already a modern classic. This new edition of the Balkan Ghost includes six opinion pieces written by Robert Kaplan about the Balkans between 1996 and 2000 beginning just after the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords and ending after the conclusion of the Kosovo war, with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power.… (more)
Loading...

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

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 25 mentions

English (28)  Dutch (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Kaplan is a very good writer. His years of reporting for big time magazines and newspapers sharpened his prose into what we see in this book; each piece an effortless melding of potent images and impressions with well-versed, concise summaries of the extremely complex histories of the regions and countries he is writing about. On that level, this book was a joy to read.

The reasons why someone would dislike this book are extremely obvious. Kaplan makes little effort to depict his subjects with any sympathy. He is unrelentingly pessimistic about the places he visits over the course of this book, and you can almost taste the acid dripping from each sentence. It's another testament to him as a practitioner of his craft that he can describe in such detail everything that annoys him about the people of the Balkans and the countries they've created. If you tend to take everything Kaplan says at face value, you'll come out of this book with no shortage of cutting, pinpoint stereotypes about Romanians, Croatians, Bulgarians, Greeks, etc.

All this vitriol leaves a sour taste in the mouth, especially when the writer is mostly talking about people that are poor and oppressed. But to hear Kaplan tell it, the people of the region are 100% to blame for the disasters that have befallen their countries, and it's not even over yet. Writing this book at the beginning of the 90s, Kaplan happened to predict with accuracy the bloodletting that would befall the Balkans in the decade to follow. One could probably argue that this prediction wasn't at all difficult to make, considering the historical background and state of affairs at the fall of the Eastern Bloc - but Kaplan seems to have gotten the credit anyway, at least it sounds that way from the self-satisfied foreword that accompanied my edition.

My biggest problem with this book isn't the negativity. For how strong the writing is, I would be down to come along for the ride, and I've enjoyed my fair share of misanthropic works of literature that don't suffer the slightest for being such. But Kaplan writes as if he *knows* exactly what the problems are and *exactly* how to fix them. He brings a handful of what I can only assume are his own personal bugaboos to bear into almost every diagnosis of what brought many of these countries to the brink of being a failed state, some of which have validity. Totalitarian Communism, ethnic hatred (specifically antisemitism), and the inherent backwardness of the "Orient" are in Kaplan's telling, the biggest offenders. The problem is how Kaplan takes for granted that all the things he thinks are bad simply are, with none of the probing and context with which he treats other aspects of the malaise that had fallen upon the region. Communism, in particular, receives the brunt of Kaplan's disdain, a view point that was perhaps more current in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Eastern Bloc, but one which comes off as simplistic and gauche by the standards of today. More than once Kaplan refers to Communism having frozen these nations, leaving the half-century those regimes were in power a big grey spot in the history books, like the vast concrete apartment blocks that Kaplan decries for ruining the old world beauty of the places he visits. It's clear that Kaplan and I simply disagree on politics (he takes every chance he can to praise Reagan and capitalism) but I would have liked to hear a little more about why exactly he hated communism so, or at least some acknowledgement of the role partisan/leftist forces played in fighting the fascist regimes of WW2, or how people like Tito managed to hold together vast, ethnically disparate countries for decades. ( )
  hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
Journalist Robert Kaplan travelled through the Balkans during the late 1980s just before war broke out in the region. His travels took him to Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. This travel book includes good summaries of the history of each country and the regions with the country as well as interviews with an interesting and diverse cast of characters. What you hear from these interviews is the remarkable level of hatred simmering in the area. You also learn that what you hear for history of each area depends a lot upon who is doing the telling.

Although the book includes a few essays from a later period, the book still feels dated and makes the reader hunger for an updated history. ( )
  M_Clark | Jul 23, 2023 |
This book had been sitting on my bookshelf unread until the coronavirus quarantine occurred. I'm glad I waited the twenty-seven years. We now know that if this book didn't contribute to the Western mindset that delayed the NATO intervention in the Yugoslavian genocide then it at least exposed the rationale for that delay.

What I find most intriguing is the delay between the author's backpacking trip through the Balkans - May through October 1990 - and the book's publication in March 1993. Was no publisher interested until Yugoslavia erupted? And did the book require a rewrite then or was the prophetic tone of doom already present in the manuscript?

The book is only partially a travelogue although that doesn't become apparent until the final two chapters. That's where the bulk of the typographical errors I found were (pp. 182, 212, 218, 242, 243, 249, 269, 271, and 285). These chapters cover Bulgaria and Greece and the focus respectively is a government journalist, Guillermo Angelov who befriended the author and a prime minister, Andreas Papandreou who the author met on three occasions. It emerges here that the author lived and worked in Greece from 1981 through 1987 and visited Bulgaria five times during that period. I can't help but wonder if these chapters were hurriedly added at the editor's request to get the green light for publication. The author's contention that Greece is a Balkan nation is not well supported. (I have no Greek or Balkan ancestry.) Bulgaria is "a world of surging passion that contained a deep secret" but in the final analysis a "lovely little country" so it would be inaccurate to call the book a hatchet job of the Balkans across the board.

After the NATO intervention this book almost immediately no longer seemed prescient. As I followed the author from country to country I would check Wikipedia for an update and found the situation considerable better than this book would lead you to believe it should be. And its worth noting that the author skips Hungary completely and yet Hungary is the only nation that is now regularly castigated for fascist leanings. (The danger of a fascist resurgence is the book's main theme. Of the many books Kaplan refers to for historic Balkan background, the Dame Rebecca West's appears most often. I suspect Kaplan modeled his book on hers.)

The book breaks down as follows:
Croatia 9%
Serbia and Albania 7%
Macedonia 8%
Belgrade 2%
Romania 39%
Bulgaria 13%
Greece 19%

As with an inferior wine this book has not aged well.

The author came out in favor of the invasion of Iraq then later had the honesty to admit the mistake. The neoconservative intelligentsia is too numerous to say that any individual member of Kaplan's stature has blood on their hands. But after two bad calls (the Balkans and Iraq) one would hope he would find an occupation for which he is more suited. ( )
1 vote JoeHamilton | Jul 21, 2020 |
A bit torn. I eagerly devoured the history between these pages, but at the same time, his writing lacked both balance and technical panache. His view of the Orient was alarmingly one-sided and laughably out-of-date. I did feel, however, that certain essays in here (that's all it really is, a collection of travel essays and op-eds) are worth the price of admission. (I liked most of those on Romania and Bulgaria ... his views on Greece and Albania and especially Kosovo just rubbed me the wrong way.) Very mixed bag. ( )
1 vote charlyk | Nov 15, 2019 |
A fascinating read and take on history in the Balkans. ( )
  jpnygard | Aug 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
The remembrance of a historic role as "the shield of Christianity" against a terrible pagan enemy, performed without the aid of Christian Austrians, Hungarians, Italians or Balkan neighbors, and often performed while being stabbed in the back by them, informs the mutual enmities of the present. The Serbian militiaman raping Muslim women and murdering Muslim men in Bosnia-Herzegovina today sincerely believes he is avenging the injustices inflicted upon his nation 600 years ago. The Greek patriot who shouts that "there is only one Macedonia and that is in Greece" (rather than in the former Yugoslavia) is likewise purportedly defending the cultural heritage of Alexander the Great against rude and uncouth Slavic invaders. (Never mind that the Slavs have themselves been living in the region for some 1,300 years.) Mr. Kaplan spares no individual and no nation in his indictments ...
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Istvan Deak (Aug 28, 1993)
 

Belongs to Publisher Series

You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Epigraph
Dedication
For Stephen and Linda Kaplan
First words
Quotations
"In Timisoara I no longer felt that I was in Romania," Mr. Kaplan writes. "Romania was an echo of Dostoyevsky's world: the inside of a ghoulish, Byzantine icon, peopled by suffering and passionate figures whose minds were distorted by their own rage and belief in wild half-truths and conspiracies. In Timisoara, Romania was less a reality than a powerful memory."
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (3)

From the assassination that triggered World War I to the ethnic warfare in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, the Balkans have been the crucible of the twentieth century, the place where terrorism and genocide first became tools of policy. Chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, and greeted with critical acclaim as 'the most insightful and timely work on the Balkans to date'-The Boston Globe, Kaplan's prescient, enthralling, and often chilling political travelogue is already a modern classic. This new edition of the Balkan Ghost includes six opinion pieces written by Robert Kaplan about the Balkans between 1996 and 2000 beginning just after the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords and ending after the conclusion of the Kosovo war, with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from power.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Current Discussions

None

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.83)
0.5 2
1 4
1.5 2
2 5
2.5 4
3 47
3.5 18
4 89
4.5 14
5 50

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 208,286,819 books! | Top bar: Always visible