Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Fracture Zone: A Return to the Balkans by Simon Winchester

Since the final year (if I'm not mistaken) of my undergraduate studies, I started to develop an interest in history, culture, people and writing. I soon buy books like Legends of the Samurai, novels like The Calligrapher's Daughter and currently, has just finished reading this book.



The Fracture Zone is what I would call, a kind of traveler's journal. Simon Winchester had journeyed through Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey to uncover the underlying cause behind the civil war that had pillaged some of the countries. He produced this book based on this journey. Among others, he interviewed refugees, a scholar, priests, ordinary people and museum visitation; and also, his personal observation of this catastrophe.

I end this post with an excerpt from The Fracture Zone. This was when Simon Winchester was at Turkey; and during the end of his road:

But then it was a little before eight o'clock, and the sun had set over the Sea of Marmara, and unseen, from one of the slender minarets above the Blue Mosque, a muezzin began to call. His voice, amplified by electronics, echoed and boomed around the square, and for a moment all at the cafe tables, and all the people passing by outside, were stilled, enchanted and respectful of this ancient and poetic cry. I picked up my telephone as quietly as I could, and dialed the number of a woman I knew, and had once loved, in New York, where it was still the middle of the afternoon. She answered, and I held the telephone up into the soft air, and let her listen to a sound she knew well, and that I knew well that she would like to hear.
And as I played the sound of the Ottoman call to her all those thousands of miles away, I gazed up into the purple of the Turkish evening sky, and I watched the seagulls circling, illuminated by the floodlights like tiny ghosts, as they glided endlessly around the very tips of the four minarets, and over the huge dome under which, even now, scores of the faithful were kneeling towards Mecca. The force of Islam, unchanging and unchanged, seemed then of a power and majesty like no other.
Silence fell, suddenly and thunderously. I put the telephone back to my ear, and in the distance I could hear the thin sirens of a police car making its way up to Madison Avenue. The ancient and the modern, the eternal and the fleeting, briefly connected in a flicker of electronics.
'That was enchanting,' said the voice at the distant end.