Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War by Slavenka Drakulić - review by Toby Litt

Toby Litt

Runaway Train

Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of War

By

Hutchinson 146pp £8.99 order from our bookshop
 

Slavenka Drakulić is a Croat. ‘Two years ago, if you mentioned that you came from Croatia (which you probably wouldn’t mention anyway, because you knew it wouldn’t make sense to a foreigner) people would look at you in bewilderment repeating the unknown name with a question mark...’ Things are completely different now. ‘...whereas before, I was defined by my education, my job, my ideas, my character – and, yes, my nationality too – now I feel stripped of all that. I am nobody because I am not a person any more. I am one of 4.5 million Croats.’

Not the least of Slavenka Drakulić’s achievements in Balkan Express is to have illustrated how war – by altering the way one regards oneself and the way one is regarded by other people – totally changes one’s identity. We, in England, are not immune to this change: I would have read this book, and you this review, quite differently had Slavenka Drakulić been a Serb. (It is even doubtful whether a book giving a Serbian account of the war would, at this time, be published.)

Balkan Express takes the form of a series of articles, written between April 1991 and June 1992 at the rate of about one a month. At no point in the book does Drakulić attempt an objective history of the war. Instead, she writes anecdotally, in the first person, often in

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter