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Fare Well, Illyria

David Binder

Publication Year: 2013

As a reporter for the prestigious New York Times the author interviewed many of the leading political figures of the Balkans (Illyria). He also sought out the area's intellectuals, many of them critical of their leaders, and everyday people who provide a sense of daily life. He devotes a chapter to each ethnic group from Vlachs to Serbs, talks about their differences and similarities, and does so without giving offense. He also provides a short historical account of the various places he visits, which deepens our understanding of the local cultures. The reader meets people from all walks of life: politicians, poets, literary and art critics, journalists, handymen, car mechanics, fishermen and farmers. From Milovan Djilas and Nicolae Ceausescu to Markos Vafiadis and Sali Berisha to the Serbian “majstor” Misha and an un-named Bosnian bar singer, Binder's book features a remarkable gallery of people whose presence contributes authenticity and human warmth to the narrative.

Published by: Central European University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword: Fare Well

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pp. ix-xv

In the Serbian language the common expression for “goodbye” is srećan put, literally, “have a good road.” The parallel in Croatian is Sretan put; in Slovenian, srecno pot; in Bulgarian, na dobar pat; in Romanian, drum bun; in Albanian, rrugem bar. The English equivalent is the original fare well. For anyone traveling in the Balkan hinterlands, a send-off wish of...

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Chapter 1: Serbia

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pp. 1-18

In May 1963, I journeyed to Belgrade, capital of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists. In the 1990s, I took the same route but now crossing the state frontiers of Slovenia and Croatia, which had never existed as durable states, to Serbia, once...

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Chapter 2: Kosovo and Metohija

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pp. 19-32

In my early Balkan years, contact with Albanians was severely limited. (Albania itself was, for Westerners, as inaccessible outer space.) Yugoslavia’s province of Kosovo and Metohija (abbreviated as Kosmet in those days) was even then largely Albanian-inhabited and off-limits for us foreign correspondents. Journeys there had to be registered and approved...

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Chapter 3: Bosnia-Hercegovina

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pp. 33-46

My first exposure to Bosnia and Herzegovina came early in my Balkan days when who knows why or how—but one day in the summer of 1963, the government of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina got the idea of organizing a raft trip to display the beauties of the storied Drina River to outsiders....

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Chapter 4: Macedonia

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pp. 47-54

The Convair 340 was packed with Macedonians anxious about their families and homes. In the cockpit, the JAT pilot dipped the nose down over the city and rolled the plane slightly to the starboard to give me an opportunity to snap pictures from the cockpit with my clumsy but reliable Rolleiflex...

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Chapter 5: Vlachs

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pp. 55-62

Soon after I arrived in the Balkans, Mirijana Komarečki, my stalwart secretary-translator-office manager read in a newspaper that the rites of the Vlach people, including women falling into trances and talking to the dead, would be marked June 5—at the time of Pentecost—in the eastern...

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Chapter 6: Slovenia

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pp. 63-68

My initial impression of Slovenia came in the village of Brdo at a stately mansion, built in the sixteenth century by a nobleman, that became the royal summer residence of Prince Paul of Yugoslavia in 1935. It was confiscated by the (half-Slovenian) Communist Josip Broz Tito after his victorious...

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Chapter 7: Croatia

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pp. 69-74

Historically, at least, Croatia seems to have spent much of its existence with a chip on its shoulder. The Croatians came into—recorded—existence in the seventh century, about the same time as their linguistic relatives, the Serbs (some linguistic evidence suggests both tribes originated in Persia). But Croats...

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Chapter 8: Dalmatia

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pp. 75-84

The question was, where—in these recollections—to place Dalmatia, with the peaks of the Dinaric Range looming above its spectacular Adriatic coast? Dalmatia has both Croatian and Serbian roots. Vlach roots, too. Dalmatae, the name of an Illyrian tribe (possibly related to a word for “sheep”), gave the region its name. It was settled by Croats in the seventh...

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Chapter 9: Bulgaria

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pp. 85-100

Suspicion of western visitors in Bulgaria was pervasive in the middle of the Cold War. As a visitor it seemed almost tangible, even in hotels. For me, finding Bulgarians to be generous and open hosts came decades later. A penumbra of mistrust surrounded a 1963 government advisory warning artists and writers to avoid western fashions and forms. Todor...

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Chapter 10: Roads Leading to Romania

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pp. 101-120

There was Romania, home of the Dacians and the Getae in ancient times, stretching from the Danube in the west to the Black Sea in the east with the ridges of the Carpathians, where, across the middle part, brown bears and wolves still roam. Its veins of precious metals, rich fields, and valleys...

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Chapter 11: Approaching Albania

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pp. 121-136

To enter almost hermetically sealed Albania was all but unthinkable in 1963 when I began seeking a visa. Perhaps there could be some consolation in the fact that it was nothing personal. Isolation gave substance to the broadening siege mentality of its despot, Enver Hoxha (1908–1985). He had begun with trenchant hostility...

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Chapter 12: Magyar

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pp. 137-144

Then came Hungary, a land largely flat as a palacsinta (“pancake”– palačinka–crêpe), except for a few puddles and streams. After having grown up on a prairie, the landscape seemed familiar. Otherwise the country remained a conundrum: with people calling themselves Magyar but forever known elsewhere as “Hungarians”— a double misnomer because it conflated them with the Huns: Another...

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Chapter 13: Crna Gora

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pp. 145-156

A cartoon published in Borba* on July 19, 1964, was my introduction to Montenegro. The legend above it read: “Titograd—Hotel Crna Gora**— Coffee 120 Dinars.” The drawing, signed D. Savić, was of four adult males with handlebar mustaches—three with suits and neckties—and the fourth...

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Chapter 14: Greece

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pp. 157-170

Acquaintance with things Greek began in autumn 1940 when Benito Mussolini notified Athens that Italy required certain “strategic locations” in Greece—and Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas replied, “that means war!” (This was interpreted immediately as Όχι [i.e., “No!”pronounced ‘ohi’]). Italy invaded that same day—and October 28 became Όχι Day for Greeks...

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Chapter 15: Coda

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pp. 171-190

“Illyria” may seem odd as a collective designation for the Southeastern European countries in these memoirs. But it is at least as appropriate as the geographic term “Balkan” (which, as noted at the outset, is ill-founded). It emerges from a study begun in 2009 by a genetics researcher of the iGENEA company in Zurich that Illyrian DNA is more prevalent in Balkan...


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pp. 191-202

Back cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9786155225758
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155225741

Page Count: 218
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: first

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Balkan Peninsula -- History -- 1989-.
  • Balkan Peninsula -- Social conditions -- 21st century.
  • Balkan Peninsula -- Politics and government -- 1989-.
  • Balkan Peninsula -- Ethnic relations.
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