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James Pettifer, 'Kosova Express: A Journey in Wartime'

Hurst, 2005; ISBN 1 85065 749 1; Pb 262pp; £16.00

James Pettifer has written and spoken about the Balkans for the likes of The Times and Wall Street Journal for many years. This point is important to make from the start, because when he speaks or writes he does so with both clarity and authority, qualities that many other commentators who deal with the region do not have.

The Balkans are not the most straightforward part of the world, as anyone who follows affairs there knows, and so it is an enormous pleasure to at last be able to read Pettifer's account of the years he spent there from the late 1980s until after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign.

What marks Kosova Express apart from other books by frontline journalists is the time and space that Pettifer is prepared and able to devote to the wider issues at stake during those times. That said, the book's subtitle, A Journey In Wartime, means that one is equally treated to a journal or travelogue in realtime, with Pettifer as the eyewitness to so many of the conflicts' main events.

From the birth of the Kosova Liberation Army and the Biblical refugee movements, to the ground war between the KLA and the Serbs, and the NATO actions right up to the final “liberation” of Kosovo. There are also a number of new insights into the war contained here; these include links between the Milosevic regime and certain European governments, and attempts to manipulate the truth by Western powers at the time.

Equally comfortable when describing the hard physicality of the region, its history, or the difficulties of reporting when everyone that one speaks to is unlikely to be telling the truth, this volume will stand the test of time and cannot fail but to please anybody with an interest in journalism and media studies, military history and the Balkans, whether novice, watcher or expert. It is hard to imagine a better guide to lead one though these terrible times.

Topics: Balkans