Not too long ago, I received a gift in the mail from my brother-in-law, John. It was an book called "Black lamb and Grey Eagle."
He is a sports guy and read an article on the Sarajevo Winter Games of 1984. He knows how much I love Bosnia, Sarajevo AND the Olympics so he sent the article.
What he didn't know (probably- although I blab a lot, so maybe he did) is that I used to collect and read books about European International Relations between World War I (then called the Great War) and World War II. I find them fascinating. They are written in this odd time when the ENTIRE WORLD changed - Empires fell, all of Eastern Europe and the Middle East was reborn with new countries and boundaries.
So the writers of these older International Relations books are professors or economic / political commentators and they are looking back at the old world order. And they are learning a ton of lessons. Yet we know, and they don't, that just around the corner was a war so much worse that we tend to forget all about their world.
Well, "Black Lamb and Grey Eagle" isn't just a travelogue or political dissertation on Yugoslavia. The author (a brilliant woman, married feminist, yet lover to H.G. Wells (they had a son!)), Rebecca West takes her first trip Yugoslavia due to the murder of the King of Yugoslavia in 1937,
She falls in love with the Balkans (as have I) and sees the beauty, courage and dichotomy between new and old that makes the area so mesmerizing.
She ALSO sees in Yugoslavia the portents of the impact of Fascism, Soviet influence and she forecasts the result of western indifference. She writes in the prism of International Relations between the warts.
The book is amazing - and above all else a wonderful wonderful gift.
PS - The introduction by Christopher Hitchens is one of the best things of his I have ever read.