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Set in 1992 during the height of the Bosnian war S reveals one of the most horrifying aspects of any war the rape and torture of civilian women by occupying forces S is the story of a Bosnian woman in exile who has just given birth to an unwanted child one wi. Croatian journalist novelist and essayist Slavenka Drakuli has written a terrifyingly fierce and painful novel of a country s lost identity told through the suffering of a nameless group of female inmates in a camp and their difficult attempts to rebuild their lives after liberation All the characters are simply known by a single initial with the main focal point being a woman called S She has just given birth in a Stockholm hospital to a child she wants nothing to do with after being repeatedly raped whilst being held captive by Serb forces the previous year 1992 S regards the child as a tumour finally removed from her body In flashback we encounter the horrors in which she and other women had to endureDrakuli opens the depraved doors to the killing rooms of the Balkans war and shows us the raped tortured and murdered bodies of civilians The immediacy and powerful punch to the guts of the novel rises not from the unbelievable things it tells us but from the opposite What s unbelievable is that we are witnessing again horribly familiar events Fixated by the overriding example of the Holocaust we don t notice when it happens again and again never uite in the same way of course and not on the 6 million scale we can t stop focusing on That s when the narrative of one ordinary life becomes essential again as a reminder that decency is frail and wars will continually make monsters The middle third of the book was extremely uncomfortable to read it was like being stuck down the dark alley of an ugly nightmare you want nothing than to just wake upMost of the women once settled into the stone warehouse that is now their new home try all so hard to just shut down and dislocate themselves from their own bodies Nobody wants to talk of what goes on elsewhere in the camp things have been heard they would rather forget as Drakulic dissects the terrible resilience of the human mind One can bear anything if one is not uite present and hovers in the shallows of the moment Drakulic writes in the present tense the hospital from S s point of view That approach presents her with the problem of how to combine the story of a woman who can t afford memory or self consciousness with a reflection on the savage experience she undergoes she solves this by fusing her logical consciousness with S s numbed condition Cleverly using an indirect third person narrative whilst in the camp allows the writer to achieve the psychic distance necessary to meditate on the meanings of incomprehensible brutalityThe novel may come to a close with some sort of hope as S in tears moves her babyboy onto her breast for a feed but it was tremendously sad to see a mother turn away in disgust from her newborn child this living breathing small and fragile neonate who had just entered the world had done nothing wrong and has no say only asking to be loved Will the boy need the truth later in life about his conception or just a fictional story about the kind of decent regular father so many other war orphans lostI have to admit had I not read many other powerful and haunting books on the horrors of civilians trapped in war I might have struggled to get through the worst bits It chilled my blood in it s portrayal of humanity s darkest side However I will likely remember this novel for the small humane acts of kindness and courage shown They may only have been little things but seemed huge in the context of the story

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Kao da me nema

Thout a country a name a father or a language Its birth only reminds her of an even grueling experience being repeatedly raped by Serbian soldiers in the women's room of a prison camp Through a series of flashbacks S relives the unspeakable crimes she has end. When your country is at war with another or perhaps many others you are aware of the risk to human life You know soldiers will die you know that some of these may be people you know or even your loved ones But though the civilians at home worry about those who are away fighting for their country they rarely see themselves as part of the war The threat to them seems far away almost unreal So when the occupying forces marched into the Bosnian village where S lived her immediate reaction is not of panic She is mildly annoyed for having been woken up but she still has faith in the human capacity for reason and she believes that if she surrenders her jewellry and valuables without making a fuss then no one will do her any harm In other words she is naiveThe civilians are captured and taken away to work camps one for men and one for women But deep within the female camp is the room that every prisoner dreads the women s room A room where women become objects to be used by the soldiers a room of pain and despair where all hope dies and a person is forced to become empty Being empty in your mind abandoning your body at will this is the only way to survive Drakulic shows the extent of human depravity in one of the most disturbing accounts of captivity during wartime Her use of the first letter in place of the women s names is important in understanding the ability to dehumanize the enemy they become things and not people It is repulsive scary and sad But the author in my opinion never slips over into the gratuitous because her focus is on S s inner turmoil It is not just about the sexual abuse the beatings and cruelty it s about the effect this has on the victims how they retreat inside themselves and the lengths they go to in order to keep their sanity in a world gone mad Not only that but she even looks at what it s like to be a soldier blindly following orders dehumanizing yourself to find the ability to commit atrocities during war It s easy to have enemies and it s easy to hate but what does it take to make you someone who can torture another human being What must they become in your mind What must you becomeWhen showing the crimes men commit towards women when showing a group of male soldiers laughing at a woman s pain it becomes so easy to delve into misandry You hate the Serbian soldiers you hate the things they do to the women But this is only partly a gender issue Drakulic wants to tell the many untold stories of women during the Bosnian war there are an estimated 60000 rape victims she wants us to know about the suffering they faced because of their gender But for the author humanity has one common enemy regardless of your race religion or gender and that is war War makes us all something other than human it allows those with the power to become monstrous and it allows those without it to be seen as verminThough the author chose to focus on the Bosnian war and particularly the way women were treated during this war the backbone of this story is universally applicable She expertly tells a story about some of the vilest most horrific things that can happen to a human being she captures humanity at it s best and worst showing exactly what we are capable of both the good and the bad

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Ured and in telling her story timely strangely compelling and ultimately about survival depicts the darkest side of human nature during wartime S may very well be one of the strongest books about war you will ever read The writing is taut precise and masterfu. Perhaps that happens to people in wartime words suddenly become superfluous because they can no longer express reality Reality escapes the words we know and we simply lack new words to encapsulate this new experience Only now does S understand that a woman s body never really belongs to the woman It belongs to others to the man the children the family And in wartime to soldiers Now however she sees that for her war began the moment others started dividing and labelling her when nobody asked her anything any In the meantime her life has become something different unrecognizable Or perhaps unimaginable Lying in her hospital bed in Stockholm she still does not know what to call it although she knows that the word is war But for her war is merely a general term a collective noun for so many individual stories War is every individual it is what happened to that individual how it happened to that individual how it happened how it changed that person s life For her war is this child she had to give birth to It is their submissiveness that shocks S than anything else their willingness to obey orders without uestion She thinks this is so not only because the men have guns but also because these people are still in a state of disbelief in some temporary state of numbness that they refuse to understand what is happening to them Or perhaps it is a kind of naivety the belief that surely somebody must know what is being done and why that there must be a reason for this action Is it good to remember or is it easier to survive if you forget you ever lived a normal life


10 thoughts on “Kao da me nema

  1. says:

    Croatian journalist novelist and essayist Slavenka Drakulić has written a terrifyingly fierce and painful novel of a country's lost identity told through the suffering of a nameless group of female inmates in a camp and their difficult attempts to rebuild their lives after liberation All the characters are simply known by a single initial with the main focal point being a woman called S She has just given birth in a Stockholm hos

  2. says:

    This was the first Drakulic I read and at the time I felt incapable of writing a review although I consider it both very well written as a novel and immensely important as a historical reflection on the routine of rape during wars There was a double reason why I could not put into words what I thought First of all I stru

  3. says:

    I don’t know why I have read this book at this very time close to Christmas it is a devastating book and it is nothing compared to the reality experienced by this woman which the author will simply call SThis woman will be deported along with

  4. says:

    When your country is at war with another or perhaps many others you are aware of the risk to human life You know soldiers will die you know that some of these may be people you know or even your loved ones But though the civilians at home worry about those who are away fighting for their country they rarely see themselves as part of the war The threat to them seems far away almost unreal So when the occupying forces marched int

  5. says:

    Slavenka Drakulic born 1949 is a Croatian novelist sociologist and a journalist who writes mainly on women issues This is my opening sentence because when I picked up this book I asked myself Drakulic who? and thought that this was a horror book Hmmm DrakulicDracula BosniaYugoslaviaTransylvania Enough KD Stop Must be the Hallowee

  6. says:

    My original review 2000 in the San Francisco ChronicleS A Novel of the Balkans By Slavenka Drakulic Viking; 216 pages; 2295Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic has given the world a gift digging into the twisted reality of the war that splintered the former Yugoslavia and emerging with ``S'' a searing story about a

  7. says:

    Is it good to remember or is it easier to survive if you forget you ever lived a normal life?Croatian journalist Slavenka Drakulic wrote this simplistic but powerful story inspired by the personal accounts of various Bosnian Muslim civilian women and their horrific experiences during the Bosnian War in the 1990s Told in 3rd person

  8. says:

    A must read bookIt reminded me of movies such as Incendies Beanpole and Aurora Borealis Their murderers need to

  9. says:

    Perhaps that happens to people in wartime words suddenly become superfluous because they can no longer express reality Reality escapes the words we know and we simply lack new words to encapsulate this new experience Only now does S understand that a woman's body never really belongs to the woman It belongs to others—to the man t

  10. says:

    this novel concerns the systematized rape and torture of civilian bosnian women during the conflicts in the balkans during the early nineties it's deeply troubling stuff almost a psychosexual counterpart to a day in the life of ivan denisovich which begs the inevitable uestion why am i reading this? certainly there's an impulse to somehow bear witness however wishy washy and drakulic does a great job of emph