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Madness Visible by Janine di Giovanni
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Madness Visible by Janine di Giovanni
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Feb 08, 2005 | ISBN 9780375724558

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"[An] unforgettable account. . . . Vivid, compassionate prose. . . . Few writers can match her evocations of individual suffering in wartime." —Newsweek (International Edition)

“Many journalists have written accounts of the wars of Yugoslav dissolution. Madness Visible is among the best of them. . . . One of Giovanni’s strengths is that if she takes sides it is simply the side of the victim. . . . Succeeds admirably.” –Times Literary Supplement

“A compelling and meticulous account. . . . The author is at her very best when she writes about the people. . . . When di Giovanni speaks of Sarajevo –and she does speak, her voice poignant, grief admixed with rage and frustration– it is gripping.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Compelling reportage at its best: grisly and depressing at times, of course, but also revealing.” –The Economist

“One of the best books ever written about war.” —The Arizona Republic

"Moving. . . . Janine di Giovanni is our Virgil, guiding us through the circles of that man-made hell: Sarajevo, Kosovo, Pristina. . . . If you read no other book about the Balkan wars, read this one. " –Phil Caputo

“[An] important book. . . . There are few outsiders who better understand what has happened in the Balkans. . . . Madness Visible is the story of all wars.” —The Guardian (London)

"Di Giovanni connects names and battles as well as peoples who have a historic distrust of one another. . . . This is di Giovanni’s one war, and she passionately documents its inhumanity." —The New York Times

“Illuminating. . . . [Her] stream-of-consciousness approach . . . imbues the book with its quiet but undeniable emotional power. . . . [Despite the] gloom that pervades each page, these accounts remain compelling because of Di Giovanni’s resolve to grasp each individual’s frail sense of hope and shattered human dignity.” –.San Antonio Express-News

“Remarkable. . . . A powerful, passionate account, and well worth the waiting for.” —The Times (London)

"Janine di Giovanni has described war in a way that almost makes me think it never needs to be described again. . . . More than a book about war, however, this is a book about the human race, in all its anguishing complexity. I can honestly say that I finished this book a wiser, more compassionate person than when I started." –Sebastian Junger

“Powerful. . . . Moving. . . . Full of gripping reportage about the horrors of life during wartime.” —Newsday

"The veteran reporter has a keen eye for detail and dialogue [while] . . . delving . . . substantially into the political, historical and ethnic tensions contributing to the 1992-95 war. . . . While di Giovanni looks back, however, she is aware that others do not. . . . Madness Visible reminds us of the folly and shame in this neglect." —The Washington Post

“Janine di Giovanni is superb–an extraordinarily brave war correspondent and a wonderful writer as well. What a combination!” –William Shawcross

"Excellent. . . . Di Giovanni depicts just how unsatisfactory, even crazy, the ‘peace’ in Kosovo is. . . . Her descriptive talents are at their best when her eye comes to rest on the plight of civilians. . . . Don’t read this book for its analysis of Balkan politics, which you can get elsewhere, but for its very humane portrait of fighters, refugees and victims." —The Daily Telegraph (London)

"An embedded journalist before the term was invented. . . . [Di Giovanni] provides a haunting record of the continuing war in the Balkans." —Harper’s Bazaar

"Powerful. . . . The images are unforgettable and di Giovanni writes movingly, with no need for embellishment, about . . . the insanity and irrationality of human behavior. Read this book and you may begin to understand what war looks and feels like, or even smells like." —The Spectator

"Chilling. . . . [Di Giovanni’s] courage is matched only by her compassion for her subjects. . . . She is a woman who simply doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘can’t’ and in her profession that’s a major asset." —The Evening Standard (London)

“Should be read . . . for an understanding of the depravity of Balkan wars of ethnic cleansing . . . [and for the] insights [it] offer[s] into the world of war correspondents working at the razor’s edge of their profession.” —Columbia Journalism Review

"Affecting. . . . Her account reflects both her passionate engagement with the people and her own sense of deep loss in this place." —The Hartford Advocate

Author Essay

A Note from Janine di Giovanni

When people ask me to describe Madness Visible, I tell them it is not solely about Yugoslavia. If I simply changed the names and locations, I could make the events mirror current conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, and Africa. Madness Visible considers the nature of war and the experience of those who, whether waging it or struggling against it, must live with war. It is about who betrays, who survives, and who succumbs. And it chronicles how average people often witness evil deeds and choose not to intercede.

We live in a dangerous time that is, and may always be, shaped by wars. This book is an attempt to allow readers to understand war by experiencing it through everyday people. They are doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, housewives. They are grandmothers, daughters, sisters, lovers, husbands. They are teenagers and toddlers. Some live and some die, but all of them are caught in a net of war.

I wrote this book by letting them tell their stories. There is the story of a ten-year-old born out of a series of brutal rapes, a child who must care for her emotionally-broken mother. There is the story of a concentration camp survivor who comes home after the war and tries to find his place in the world. There is the story of a Shakespearean scholar who orders the destruction of a national library, and watches calmly as hundreds of thousands of precious books catch fire in a mortar attack. And there is the story of young American soldiers who deplete their savings to buy guns and fight wars in countries they know nothing about.

Plato said “Only the dead know the end of war.” I believe those frightening words. I have seen rows of dead bodies left by battle. I have observed that the dead are at peace while the living continue with their obsessions of hate and retribution. I chose not to write a military analysis or a historical treatise on the Balkans because I wanted my book to probe more deeply into the fear and hatred that constitute war’s true cause. Madness Visible is my effort to discover what fuels a war, what drives it, and what might bring it to an end.

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