Reading Sarajevo with Carol Off


A rose sits by a wall with the names of the victims of the siege on Sarajevo, which took place 1992 to 1995 (Hidajet Delic/Associated Press)

CBC's Carol Off has covered many international events and bloody conflicts in her life, but few stories have drawn her in like Sarajevo and the Bosnian War.

The journalist, author and As It Happens host travelled to the city in the mid-1990s to report on the war in its final few months. But even after the end of the conflict, something kept bringing her back to the city year after year. She devoted several chapters of her book The Lion, the Fox and the Eagle to Sarajevo, the failure of the peacekeeping mission there and the search for justice in the aftermath. According to Off, it's difficult not to be affected by the history.

"I think that if you go to this country, go to Bosnia, go to Sarajevo, there's something about that country -- the whole region -- that gets into your blood," she told CBC Books producer Adrian Ma during a recent interview.

off-carol-cbc-file-175.jpg"The people are profoundly moving. Their stories are unbelievably compelling. And their sense of survival is, well, an accomplishment that defied all odds."

As a reporter, she's done thorough research about Sarajevo, interviewed countless people and pored over documentary footage to further her understanding. But she says books have been the most valuable tool for her.

"I think books have ideas that you can't get anyplace else. I've seen great documentaries about Bosnia, but nothing like the books, because there were amazing writers that covered the war. I mean not just journalists, but just craftsmen and craftswomen. They created tremendously good literature about it. So they were definitely the inspiration for much of what I was writing."

In the slideshow, we're highlighting some of the books about Bosnia that inspired Off and helped her gain more insight into the conflict (click here for a text-based list). You can also listen to the full interview in the audio clip below.

Have you read any powerful books about the Bosnian War? What would you suggest? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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Books about Sarajevo and the Bosnian War

This week, As It Happens will be airing its special Remembering Sarajevo coverage.