In This Review

Beyond the Mountains of the Damned: The War Inside Kosovo
Beyond the Mountains of the Damned: The War Inside Kosovo
By Matthew Mcallester
New York University Press, 2002, 225 pp

The words repeated so often in one after another Balkan tragedy have lost their meaning. "National hatreds," "ethnic cleansing," "paramilitary brutality," and "genocide" become too easily a remote, abstract, antiseptic idiom. The television screens may have brought into our homes the images of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees crammed into muddy, tented camps, but that too ends up only a numbing living metaphor of suffering. Because cameras and reporters were not allowed in, the outside world never knew what was really happening in Kosovo during the 1999 war. McAllester, a young Newsday correspondent, fills that void with vivid, human, heart-rending detail, some of it gathered on dangerous treks into Kosovo from Montenegro, much of it from carefully reconstructed second-hand accounts. He writes well and with compassion -- if perhaps a little too much compassion for the Kosovo Liberation Army, whose actions were not always much better than those of the Serb paramilitaries and police.