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The Library of Babel

A Spin-off of http://bookwormshead.blogspot.co.uk

Besieged: Life Under Fire on a Sarajevo Street - Barbara Demick "Besieged" is a book about life in war time Sarajevo wrote by Barbara Demick in 1996 after spending some time there at various intervals between 1992 and 1995 as the correspondent of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The reason why this stuff has recently been re-published is the success recently gained by "Nothing to Envy" the brilliant book by Mrs Demick about life under the North Korean communist regime.

There is, therefore, a gap of almost 15 years and more than 5 thousand miles between what Barbara Demick wrote about Sarajevo in the 1990s and Pyongyang nowadays. Not to mention all the rest.

The book formerly known as "Logavina Street" and now published under the title of "Besieged" with the addition of a slight editing and two extra chapters at the end is good but far from being excellent as "Nothing to Envy" is.

On the one hand, Mrs Demick was younger then and less experienced in dealing with the personal stories of the people she wrote about. On the other hand, what happened in the region now named Bosnia & Herzegovina in the early 1990s cannot be fully explained in this book, but Demick tried her best to make things clearer here (an afterthought of the author, I guess).

Don't expect a book about the Yugolav Wars, though.
"Besieged" is about the siege of Sarajevo in its different stages as seen from the people living or finding shelter in one of the nicer and most diverse streets in town: Logavina.

Here and there the names of Ilja Itzebegovic, Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic appears just like a few lines dedicated to the awful events in Tuzla and Srebrenica even though, the city of Mostar is never mentioned here.

Nevertheless, "Besieged" is a good and poignant book which achieves the goal to show the hard lives of those (Muslim-Bosniaks, Croats, a few Serbs) who were caught by the Serbian-Chetniks barbarian siege to Sarajevo and how they managed to get by surviving shelling, snipers' fire and starvation.

This is an interesting and important reading, but at the end of the day Mrs Demick could have made it better when she wrote it and so much better while re-publishing the book.
The city of Sarajevo has disappeared from the newsreels and what "Besieged" lacks is an insight on how things are going on now in town.