Love Thy Neighbor

Maass, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

Reason read: History books state the Bosnian War started in on April 6th 1992 despite earlier acts of violence.

April 1st, 1992. My father was five months and twenty days away from dying. On that day, Serbians commenced their brutal attack on Bosnia. I think I might have done damage to my psyche to read about Bosnia and Guernica in the same month…To wipe out an entire community or ethnicity for absolutely no reason other than pure dominance is unfathomable.
Line that gave me pause, “There was even a slip of paper from the library saying they didn’t posses any overdue books” (p 86). Imagine giving up everything you own, including items you don’t, like books borrowed from the library. The business of the bureau for ethnic cleansing demanded Bosnians claim they handed over all worldly possessions to a Serbian. This act does not encompass the horrific violence, but rather the senseless humility.
About the violence. Most of the time I found myself twisting and twitching in my chair, wanting to turn away from the sentences of torture Maas wrote. I am one of those fat and happy and white privileged people who blissfully and ignorantly cite misunderstanding when it comes to the war in Bosnia. I was oblivious to the death and destruction with the exception of what the U.S. media decided or cared to reveal to me. What baffles me the most is that, like the Hutu and Tutsi, Serbs and Bosnians at one time got along like neighbors and family. Another war similarity from forty years earlier, like Franco denying the bombing of Guernica, Serbia denied the bombing of Bosnia was their responsibility. Death and destruction is not a macabre mirage and yet they do refuse see or own it. The practice of modern warfare with age-old atrocities was hard to read. Reporters and journalists had the luxury of escaping Sarajevo – taking a break was not an option for its entrapped residents. Maas takes his time to carefully humanize the narrative by inserting personal anecdotes from his own life.

Quotes to quote, “They didn’t wear normal uniforms, they didn’t have many teeth, and they didn’t want us there” (p16), “At the time, I didn’t think there was anything strange about flying through the air with 35,000 pounds of feta cheese” (p 23), “If surrealism had not existed, Bosnia would have invented it” (p 28).

Playlist: Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way,” Ringo Starr, Guns N’ Roses, Edith Pilaf’s “Je ne regrette rien,”Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Ella Fitzgerald, Mick Jagger, Louis Armstrong, Ike and Tina Turner.

Author fact: Maas has written a bunch of other books, but I am only reading Love Thy Neighbor for the Challenge.

Book trivia: As an aside, it is a shame the public library from which I borrowed Love Thy Neighbor had to plastic cover the book. The original material would have felt good to hold.

Nancy said: Peter said Love Thy Neighbor “expose(s) the horror of life during wartime in the former Yugolavia” and Maas is more “visceral” about his writing (Book Lust p 31).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).


Bridge on the Drina

Ivo, Andric. The Bridge on the Drina. Translated by Lovett F. Edwards. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Reason read: Mehmed Pasha built the bridge on the Drina and was born in October. Read in his honor.

The bridge on the Drina stands as a silent character in Bridge on the Drina and acts as a symbol for life. As civilization is buckling, the bridge stands solid, spying on and witness to all humanity. . It is an integral part of the community. If you were Christian and lived on the left bank you had to cross the bridge to be christened on the right side. It was a sources of food as people fished from it or hunted doves from under it. It had historical significance as families shared legends about it. Andric takes us through the sixteenth century and the laborious construction of the bridge to four hundred years later and the modernized twentieth century and how the bridge became a symbol across generations. It all started with the tortured memory of the grand Vizier. How, as a young boy, he was forcibly removed from his mother during the Ottoman crusades. The river Drina is where he lost sight of her. Hence, the bridge.

Quote I liked, “The story was noised far and abroad” (p 36).

Author fact: Ivo Andric won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Another piece of trivia: Andric grew up on the banks of the Drina.

Book trivia: the introduction to Bridge on the Drina gives the history of Bosnia. It helps ground the reader to a sense of place.

Nancy said: “The Bridge on the Drina describes the relationships between various ethnic groupings in a small Bosnian town from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries” (Book Lust p 32).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Balkan Specters” (p 31).


Turn the Page October

Fiction:

  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.

Series continuations:

  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
  • The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.

Fun:

  • Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.

Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.