"An Uneven Killing Field": British Literature and the Former Yugoslavia

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Abstract

The essay examines the British literary response to the wars in the former Yugoslavia that took place during the 1990s. Its core argument is that literature absorbed and perpetuated the dominant discourse on the conflict which had been established in governmental rhetoric in the early half of the decade. Summarised by Kofi Annan as the discourse of 'amoral equivalency', this sourced the roots of the fighting in notions of 'tribal chaos' and ancient ethnic hatreds', refusing to allocate blame for the war in Bosnia and justifying the international community's policy of non-intervention. Forming the only comprehensive survey in the field, the article studies some thirty travel books, autobiographies and novels, analysing how such work tends towards blanket condemnation, confusion of victim and aggressor and disinclination to 'take sides'. The article also reflects on the way that vilification of the former Yugoslavia soon led to a wider resurgence in denigratory balkanism in British literature of the 1990s.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature
EditorsAdam Piette, Mark Rawlinson
Place of PublicationEdinburgh, UK
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Pages241-250
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9780748638741
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2012

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