Feb 242010
Authors: Jim Sojourner

With the advent of the War on Terror almost a decade ago, war became a constant in American life, with photos and newspaper stories acting as daily reminders of struggles taking place worlds from our own.

Just two weeks ago, the war in Afghanistan ramped up into its newest phase aimed at defeating insurgents in the shattered country for good, and “body count” and “collateral damage” thrust themselves onto front pages once again.

It’s in this context of political, ethnic war that Anthony Lloyd’s “My War Gone By, I Miss It So” retains its relevance in a new century.

Following the collapse of Tito’s Yugoslavia more than two decades ago, ethnic nationalist tensions launched the Balkans into civil war.

Early in 1992, Serbs, Muslims and Croats locked in a conflict that would tear the region apart with its mass rapes, psychological devastation and genocidal tendencies.

And so entered Lloyd –– a young journalist fresh out of British military service –– to war-torn Sarajevo, armed with a flak jacket and camera, hungry to experience true war.

“My War Gone By, I Miss It So” details Lloyd’s experience as a war correspondent from his arrival in the Bosnian capital to the conclusion of the conflict in late 1995, including his brief foray into Chechnya.

While it’s clear from the first pages that Lloyd fell in love with the war he found in Bosnia, it’s equally clear that his version of war is not one of bravado and heroism.

Instead, it’s the journalist’s beautifully detailed, disturbing descriptions of dead bodies, mutilation and devastation that capture the reader’s attention.

Chapter by chapter, Lloyd trudges through tragedies he witnessed first hand including brutal murders and rapes, torture and cities riddled with body parts blown apart by bombs –– the brutal realities of war where humans abandon humanity to fight for what Lloyd sees as misguided causes that make enemies into animals.

Lloyd launches scathing and compelling attacks on the media’s so-called objectivity and the United Nation’s refusal to intervene in what he sees as genocide.

He rages against the post-conflict generation of journalists who use words like “ethnic cleansing” and “collateral damage” to diminish the scenes of horror that ripped apart the lives of living, breathing people.

More than just describing carnage, “My War Gone By” also explores the darker side of the human psyche. It explores Lloyd’s own struggle with heroin addiction in London, war addiction and even his desire to know what it’s like to kill another person.

By far the weakest element of Lloyd’s book is its narrative and storytelling. The journalist’s journey has no real beginning or end and is more of a mish-mash of dark or grotesque stories.

With a few exceptions, characters take back seat to Lloyd’s own thoughts and experiences, leaving readers feeling little connected to anyone.
Lloyd himself is too honest about his own feelings to be truly likable, as are many of the people he encounters –– the demented products of a perverse war.

But what Lloyd lacks in compelling characters and connected storytelling, he makes up for with the sheer force of his writing talent and the impact of his images and psychoanalysis.

Lloyd’s ability to set scenes and penetrate the human brain are unparalleled and leave readers feeling that Bosnia’s grisly scenes are playing out before their own eyes. It leaves readers staggering with the emotional weight of war’s tragedy.

The book is not for the thin-skinned or weak-stomached, but Lloyd’s understanding of conflict, death and the human condition will change reader’s ideas of war and humanity.

After reading “My War Gone by, I Miss it So,” the terms air strike, collateral damage and war will not ever be just words on a page. With no end in sight for America’s War on Terror, Lloyd leaves a little of himself with his readers –– for better or for worse.

Projects Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:42 pm

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