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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Peter Maass went to the Balkans as a reporter at the height of the nightmarish war there, but this book is not traditional war reportage. Love Thy Neighbor is Maass' brilliantly observed and moving memoir of the worst spasm of violence in Europe since World War II, the Bosnian War. In this account of what he witnessed in Bosnia during the two years he covered the conflict for The Washington Post, Maas offers "one of the definitive accounts of Bosnia's fin de siècle descent into madness" (The Cleveland Plain Dealer). Writing in the tradition of Ryszard Kapuscinski and Michael Herr's Dispatches, Maass eloquently captures the personal, national, and universal implications of a brutal civil war.
The Boston Globe called Maass' work "Moving and morally compelling.... [A] strikingly personal and passionate account of the war by...a reporter who got closer to the action and the suffering than any diplomat, policy maker or academic.... Maass lets his eye for the arresting detail and his conscience be his guides. The result is a gripping journey through a hellish war, with pit stops to meet some of the victims and their executioners. It is a hair-raising, stomach-churning and, ultimately, consciousness-raising ride, and one that will force readers to examine their own values and those of the Western powers who appeased aggressors while a quarter of a million people died horrible deaths.... Throughout the book, Maass examines two themes: first how can human beings be so monstrous to one another or stand by when others are brutalized, and second, how could Western powers, including the United States, fail to stop aggression and appease the worst war criminals in Europe."
Reviewing Love Thy Neighbor for The New York Times, Richard Bernstein called Maass' work "angry, stinging, profanely eloquent and often painful," and wrote, "What Mr. Maass gives us in short is a view of ethnic cleansing in all of its cruelty, its absurd detail, its self-justification, its dehumanization of the other. Love Thy Neighbor will take its place among the classics of an unfortunate genre: the portrayal of humankind at its worst."
John C. Hawley, professor at Santa Clara University, wrote of Love Thy Neighbor in The San Francisco Chronicle, "Maass' portrait of human nature at its worst is powerfully emotional.... Maass insistently and with compelling reasons recasts the [Serb and Muslim] choices as ones any one of us might make, given the proper demagogue.... Such ominous reflections elevate this book beyond the notes of a seasoned reporter to the plane of a more universal examination of the narrow self-interest that can encourage, or ignore, the savagery of which we are capable. Maass' graphic demonstration of this reality is rendered all the more stark in light of his portrayal of the generosity and desire for meaning in the face of brutality's victims."
Maass examines how an ordinary Serb could wake up one morning and shoot his neighbor, once a friend--then rape that neighbor's wife. He conveys the desperation that makes a Muslim beg the United States to bomb his own city in order to end the misery. Maass does not falter at the spectacle of U.N. soldiers shining searchlights on fleeing refugees--who are promptly gunned down by snipers waiting in the darkness. Love Thy Neighbor gives us an unflinching vision of a late-20th-century hell that is also a scathing inquiry into the worst extremes of human nature.
Table of Contents
The Wild Beast
Country of Heroes
Merry Christmas, Sarajevo