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Book recommendations: The Balkans -- history and culture

Posted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 12:10 pm
by Windwalker
Princes among Men

This book narrates the travels of journalist/poet Garth Cartwright with Gypsy musicians in the Balkans. Cartwright has an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the catchy phrase. He also knows his music (his comparison of gypsy music to the blues is not exactly accurate, but I understand the impulse for the equation).

He gives us a glimpse into these intriguing, uniqu people through their music, which has sustained them through their journeys and ordeals -- but without varnishing them. When he lets them speak for themselves, they become distinct individuals rather than archetypes or stereotypes.

Mark Mazower

Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 6:57 pm
by Windwalker
Speaking of non-fiction page turners, I recommend two books by renowned contemporary historian Mark Mazower, who specializes on Balkan history:

Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44

Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950

Mazower is not only a fluid, vivid writer but he is also fair, something very rare for these events. Additionally, the books contain unique lithographs and photos. As someone who was taught this history as underground knowledge during my childhood and youth, I found these books engaging, enlightening -- and painful, but in a good way.

Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 1:05 pm
by rocketscientist
Thanks for the recs! Good non-fiction is an excellent resource for fiction as well. Gets lots of ideas going.

Posted: Thu Feb 08, 2007 2:30 pm
by Windwalker
rocketscientist wrote:Good non-fiction is an excellent resource for fiction as well. Gets lots of ideas going.
I agree! The two greatest helpmeets to fiction are history (often much more exotic than fiction) and first-hand knowledge of a place or experience. Not everything in fiction can -- or must -- be filtered through personal experience. That's where empathy and imagination come in. However, once you've read enough novels, you can usually tell when an author has witnessed something directly from that unmistakable ring of extra authenticity.

Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 2:36 pm
by intrigued_scribe
No truer words, and I agree with you both; history and experience do provide foundations to fiction like few (if any) other elements can. Many thanks for the recs. :)