Review: Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipovic
Title: Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Wartime Sarajevo
Author: Filipovic, Zlata
Translator: Pribichevich-Zoric, Christina
Length: 197 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Publisher / Year: Penguin / 2006
Originally Published: by Viking in 1994
Why I Read It: It sounded interesting.
Date Read: 10/12/10
This book is the journal of an ordinary young girl during the war in Sarajevo. At the beginning of her diary she is going to school, attending parties, and worried about her marks. Through the course of the book we see the tragedy of war and the confusion it causes in Zlata. We also see her cope in marvelous ways.
The description reads:
This clear-eyed and often heart-wrenching book, first published in 1994 and now updated with a new introduction from the author, has been compared to The Diary of Anne Frank, both in the freshness of its voice and the grimness of the world it describes. Zlata Filipovic began her diary just before her eleventh birthday, recording the typical concerns of a girl her age: piano lessons, birthday parties, and grades at school. But as war engulfs Sarajevo, the things she writes about change: the deaths of friends, food shortages, and days spent waiting out bombardments in a neighbor’s cellar. Yet throughout, Zlata herself remains observant and courageous, and it is these qualities that give Zlata’s Diary the power to remind readers of the ravages of war.
I can’t do anything but wholeheartedly agree with whoever wrote that description. Zlata writes as a young girl and sometimes it’s hard to remember that she is so young, and that the diary is a true account. It is especially hard to remember that it is true. I found myself reading along numerous times and when things happened having to say wow… stop for a minute and think about the fact that these are real people and not just characters in a story. Her bravery and courage put the rest of us to shame.
Books like this are important because they remind us why we need to find peaceful solutions and why we need to consider individual lives rather than numbers spouted on the news. I thank Zlata for being courageous enough to keep writing in her journal, and to let it be published. We need more stories like this.
The writing was really wonderful and still had the feel of an 11-year-old girl, though at times she seemed so much more mature than her age. Both the author and translator did a fantastic job. The book also includes images of Zlata’s family growing up, and a few pictures of her diary.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from her diary, from Thursday, November 19, 1992. On page 96-97 she says:
I keep wanting to explain these stupid politics to myself, because it seems to me that politics caused this war, making it our everyday reality. War has now crossed out the day and replaced it with horror, and now horrors are unfolding instead of days. It looks to me as though these politics mean Serbs, Croats and Muslims. But they are all people. They are all the same. They all look like people, there’s no difference. They all have arms, legs and heads, the walk and talk, but now there’s “something” that wants to make them different.
Why is politics making us unhappy, separating us, when we ourselves know who is good and who isn’t? We mix with the good, not with the bad. And among the good there are Serbs and Croats and Muslims, just as there are among the bad. I simply don’t understand it. Of course, I’m “young,” and politics are conducted by “grown-ups.” But I think we “young” would do it better. We certainly wouldn’t have chosen war.