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Peter Maass is a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and has reported from the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. He has written as well for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and Slate. Maass is the author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, which chronicled the Bosnian war and won prizes from the Overseas Press Club and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York City.
Torture, mass murder of civilians, rape and looting are common occurrences in Washington Post staff writer Maass's intensely personal firsthand report on the war in the former Yugoslavia, based on his tour as a foreign correspondent in 1992-1993 and supplemented by up-to-date political analysis. His disturbing mosaic portrays ordinary individuals caught up in an ongoing tragedy. Rejecting the Serbs' claim that they faced imminent genocide at the hands of a radical Muslim dictatorship in Bosnia, Maass charges that Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and his fellow nationalist extremists used the specter of Islamic persecution as a smoke screen behind which to pursue their expansionist dreams of a Greater Serbia. Maass interviews Milan Koracevic, the unrepentant Serb warlord who supervised ``ethnic cleansing'' in Bosnia, and he scathingly limns Charles Redman, U.S. special envoy to the Geneva peace talks. To Maass, President Clinton and his western European allies are weak-willed appeasers whose agenda was to give the Serbs virtually everything they wanted and to award half of Bosnia to Serbia. BOMC alternate; author tour. (Feb.)
"One of the definitive accounts of Bosnia's fin de siï¿½cle descent into madness" --The Cleveland Plain Dealer). "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." --The Boston Globe "Angry, stinging, profanely eloquent and often painful.... 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." --The New York Times "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." --John C. Hawley, Santa Clara University, The San Francisco Chronicle
Maass, a widely respected reporter for the Washington Post, has produced an excellent account of the "tragedy and absurdity" of the Bosnian war. While the subject has already been well treated in such works as David Rieff's Slaughterhouse (LJ 2/15/95), Maass's book is distinguished by a particular sense of drama and by the author's access to the war's leading personalities. We move from the "disarming sincerity" of the mendacious Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the desperate and angry Bosnian vice president Ejup Ganic and the "evil genius" of the war, Serbian president Slobadan Milosevic. Maass concludes in profound sympathy with the Muslims, whose "fatal mistakes" were to discount the threat to their minority status and to believe that the "wild beast [of aggressive nationalism] had been tamed." This attitude sustains a passion that may breach the "respectable distance" of professional journalism while it questions whether such distance is compatible with exceptional reporting. Highly recommended for all libraries. [See also David Owens's Balkan Odyssey, LJ 2/15/96.‘Ed.]‘Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie