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S.: A Novel about the Balkans
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About the Author

Slavenka Drakulic was born in Croatia in 1949. The author of several works of nonfiction and novels, she has written for The New York Times, The Nation, The New Republic, and numerous publications around the world.

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The anger that echoes through this review is the natural reaction of a feminist sensitive to the subject of rape. But how else can any woman react to the barbaric treatment of women during the Balkan civil war? Drakulic once again explores the bigotry of the Balkan mentality (as in Caf‚ Europa, for instance), here coming unbearably close to the actual truth of the rapes of Bosnian women between 1992 and 1995. The simple story unfolds from the protagonist's perspective: before she can rebuild her life after surviving unthinkable physical abuse in a Serbian concentration camp, S. first has to face its consequence and give birth to an unwanted child. Drakulic delineates the most intimate moments with controlled precision and stops your pulse with sentences like this: "She was in a storehouse of women...where female bodies were stored for the use of men." A fully authentic novel, S. is also an important historical document at times reminiscent of Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz (1949). Readers may try to comfort themselves that this kind of savagery happens only far away from home, but that is not true--which is precisely the bitter point. Every paragraph makes you fearfully aware of the unpredictable nature of even the most civilized human conduct. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/99.]--Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

S. lies in the Karolinska Hospital in Sweden, where she has just given birth to a baby boy. She refuses to nurse him. Maj, in the next bed, is worried and shocked, but she is not aware of the trauma in which the baby was conceived. It is March of 1993, and S. spent the previous summer in a Bosnian prison camp. She cannot guess which of the men who raped her there was the baby's father. As she lies in the hospital bed, S. remembers the summer of 1992, from the day when the soldiers rounded up the occupants of the Muslim village of B., shot the men and herded the shocked, obedient women onto buses. She remembers life in the camp, where she was assigned to help E., the nurse, tend the sick, and the horrible rumors about the "women's room," where women are taken for the Serbian soldiers to rape. Soon it is her turn for the "women's room"; surviving rape and dehumanization, she develops a protective need to forget. But she cannot forget the other women in the room, their struggles, their wounds, their deaths. All she has succeeded in obliterating is her previous life, in which she was a teacher, with parents and a sister who once lived in Sarajevo. They have vanished, and she would have disappeared, too, if she had stayed with them. She has vanished, anyway, into the depersonalized world of the raped, the refugee, the woman without a country. This novel by journalist and novelist Drakulic (The Balkan Express; The Taste of a Man) is a terrifying, graphic story of a country's lost identity, told through the suffering of the nameless inmates of the camp and their attempts to rebuild their lives after liberation. (Feb.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

". . . Slavenka Drakulic has given the world a gift, digging into the twisted reality of war . . . a novel of cataclysmic power." --San Francisco Chronicle"Drakulic's novel will leave you with survivor guilt even while never having undergone the horrific events described. . . . Descriptions of camp life rival those of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in graphic and compelling detail." --The Nation

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