Winner, Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2002, Non-Fiction For every survivor of a crime, there is a criminal who forces his way into the victim's thoughts long after the act has been committed.Reporters werent allowed into Kosovo during the war without the permission of the Yugoslavian government but Matthew McAllester went anyway. In Beyond the Mountains of the Damnedhe tells the story of Pec, Kosovo's most destroyed city and the site of the earliest and worst atrocities of the war, through the lives of two men one Serb and one Kosovar. They had known each other, and been neighbors for years before one visited tragedy on the other. With a journalist's eye for detail McAllester asks the great question of war: What kind of men could devastate an entire city, killing whole families, and feel no sense of guilt? The answer lies in the culture of gangsterism and ethnic hatred that began with the collapse of Yugoslavia.In March of 1999, the world watched thousands of Albanian refugees pour out of Kosovo, carrying stories of the terror that drove them from their homes. To Isa Bala and his family, Albanian Muslims who stayed in Pec during the NATO bombardment, the war in Kosovo was not about cruise missiles and geopolitics. It was about tiptoeing between survival and death in the town that saw the fiercest destruction, the most thorough eviction of the Albanian population and killings whose brutality demands explanation. To Nebojsa Minic and other Serb militiamen who ruled with murder, the conflict was about the exercise of power. Today they are alive and well in the new Yugoslavia. So unconcerned are they over the prospect of ever being held accountable for their crimes that they were willing to sit down over coffee after the war and discuss in detail their brief, brutal reign.To write this book, Matt McAllester walked through mountains covered with snow and hatred with rifle shots aimed at him from above. He wrote it with extraordinary talent that is equal to his bravery.Jimmy Breslin
Matthew McAllester's Beyond the Mountains of the Damned tells the searing and disturbing story of the war in Kosovo. He explains clearly, as few have, what happened and why, and why it matters. His powerful narrative takes us down roads, past checkpoints, and into battle zones, and it plunges us into strange, sad, scarred places where no other reporter has gone. The book has a drive and a momentum that keep you reading even when the sheer horror and stupidity of events is painful. A human as well as a historic tale, told with an eye and an ear for the personal, the individual, the intimate Amy Wilentz, author of Martyrs Crossing and The Rainy Season: Haiti since Duvalier
Beyond the Mountains of the Damned is about how war destroys society at its most basic level. I read this and understood what happened to ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances during those dark and desperate days in Kosovo. It is a book I will not forget. Janine di Giovanni, special correspondent, Vanity Fair and the Times of LondonA heart-rending tale of the execution of innocents, told with eloquence and compassion by a brilliant and courageous young journalist. What is astonishing about this story of death in Pec is that it actually took place in the last year of the twentieth century and in supposedly civilized Europe.
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