Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
October 11, 2010 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West's 1941 account of the people, history, and politics of the doomed Kingdom of Yugoslavia, is available online in its flawed, majestic entirety.
posted by Iridic (9 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure this is the whole thing? The page numbers at the bottom indicate that each of the five parts was around 20-25 magazine pages originally. That sounds really short.
posted by enn at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2010

I was wondering the same thing -- if the book is over 1100 pages, surely there's more than what's online here?
posted by statolith at 1:22 PM on October 11, 2010

You're right, of course - I recognized the first page and foolishly assumed that the entire thing was represented.

It would appear that this serialized run is only part of the book; pages and pages and pages of the book, but nothing like the whole. My sincere apologies.
posted by Iridic at 1:27 PM on October 11, 2010

She gets more wrong than you'll ever imagine, but the book is interesting anyway - at least if you have the knowledge to separate reality from her often delusional and mad fantasy idea of things.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:54 PM on October 11, 2010

I'm from Serbia, and despite generally being interested in "Western" perceptions of the Balkans, never could quite get through the whole book (well, that's generous- I actually never got beyond the first hundred pages)...

I'm still weirdly impressed (flattered?) if someone with no Balkan ancestry tells me they've read it... well, I guess the bar is kind of low because I'm impressed when people even know where Serbia is. Sigh.
posted by Aubergine at 2:14 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can get a good deal of Christopher Hitchins' introduction to the Penguin edition on Google books.

And, of course, a good deal of the book itself.

I'll have to give it a second shot. My memory of thumbing through it years and years was that I found the tone annoying. So teaching.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:02 PM on October 11, 2010

Wonderful writing, but her blindly romantic worship of the Serbs makes unpleasant reading after the wars and massacres of the '90s (and led to a lot of nonsense being written about the region by her blindly romantic acolyte Robert D. Kaplan). By all means read her, but be constantly aware of her biases. Like the Serbs, she thought they had a God-given right to rule everyone else.
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nice comment, languagehat. Sadly, President Clinton cited Kaplan's books as one of the sources for his background info on "that part of the world", and later admitted that his sense that the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia were impenetrable tribals hatreds (or something like that, which he got from Kaplan - he admitted as much) delayed his decision for intervention. Which, of course, cost many lives. I often wonder how many of those lives were those of my friends or my family. Kaplan, I am told, responds somewhat unconvincingly to these sorts of charges in the preface to a newer edition than the one I have, so if anyone can fill me in I'd welcome it.

I can't blame Kaplan for prolonging the war, but for me, the whole thing serves as a very bitter lesson about the awesome responsibilities that historians have, and the unpredictable way their biases and "blind romanticism" can affect real lives.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 3:26 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I did read the whole book. I too found her disdain for Balkans Jews, the Muslims of Bosnia and the Croats and the Albanians to be too much. She had it in for so many of the people that I wonder why she went. She wildly misunderstood the history of all the region.
I do not think she really understand the Serbs either, even though she so exageratedly favored them. When she wrote about Jews her pen dripped poison. The only people she liked other than the Serbs were the Roma.
She did excell at describing landscapes and cities.
I spent a lot of time in Bosnia-Hercegovina. I got the bookafter my second trip, so comparing how things were described in her book with my experience was kind of fun.
But I can't get past the damage she, Hitchens and Kaplan did by not understanding the region.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:12 PM on October 11, 2010

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