A Paper House

Mark Thompson, Author
Mark Thompson, Author Pantheon Books $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-42187-0
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More travelogue and historical essay than street reporting, this rich but convoluted chronicle covers journalist Thompson's experience in Yugoslavia from 1987 to 1991. Traversing Yugoslavia's regions, from Slovenia in the north to Macedonia in the south, Thompson (now London correspondent to a Slovenian magazine) offers impressionistic pictures of this complex, tragic land rather than a chronological account of Yugoslavia's fall into civil war. While the narrative can be confusing, Thompson's meanderings have taught him far-ranging lessons about, for instance, the historical weight of Yugoslavia's peculiar brand of socialism and the reasons that development aid in the 1950s and 1960s made Montenegro friendly to neighboring Serbia. He includes several memorable anecdotes: a Slovenian journalist discourses on Yugoslavia's frequent presence in James Bond books and long-time dissident Milovan Djilas talks of how the Balkans ``are full of evil.'' A personalized view of a multinational region that, Thompson observes, ``as a state . . . was unique and eventually impossible.'' (Nov.)
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