To read Tom Gjelten's Sarajevo Daily requires discipline. In fact, at many points it is a grind. But it is an honest book through which Gjelten shares the daily experiences and struggles of a handful of journalists who have faithfully published Oslobodjenje, the Sarajevo newspaper, every day of the war without interruption.
The book provides significant and important insight into what is going on in Bosnia. Through the individuals and their collective struggle to keep a multiethnic enterprise alive, Gjelten brings into focus this enigmatic conflict. The newspaper, a democratic fledgling after 50 years as an organ of the Communist state, is a powerful vehicle through which the deeper realities of Sarajevo and the Bosnian conflict are revealed.
It is the journalists' process of publishing that teaches us about the war. They discern what to print, knowing that lives are at stake no matter what they choose. They work the black market and the favor of United Nations troops in order to maintain basic supplies. They struggle with personal depression, family collapse, and intense pressure to give up, protect self, and separate from their neighbors forever. They contemplate life in a modern city that is being bombed into oblivion, knowing that the international will to save them does not exist. Through their thoughts and experiences, the reader learns about the politics that pervade every aspect of their lives and gains insight into the forces that drive and sustain the war.
Sarajevo Daily is not flashy and is often painful reading. It is a story about real people who are trying to stay alive, remain human, and hold onto the conviction that diverse people can live together in peace and that such an arrangement can be life-giving. Theirs is a challenging quest under the best circumstances.