BOOKS / In the lists

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The Independent Culture
'Today was truly, absolutely the worst day ever in Sarajevo . . . We listened to the pounding shells, the shooting, the thundering noise overhead . . . I realised that this awful cellar was the only place that could save our lives.' The words are from 13-year-old Zlata Filipovic's heart-rending Bosnian diary, just out and straight into the list at number one. If the parallels with Anne Frank are touchingly obvious, so too are the differences: Anne died; Zlata made the cover of Newsweek and was whisked to safety in Paris, there to fret about the friends left behind in hell. Impossible any longer to believe that searing testimonies like Zlata's - the loss of innocence in the journal is almost unbearable - will make a scrap of difference to Sarajevo's fate, any more than the tragedy of Little Irma or the nightly bulletins in BBC2's Sarajevo: A Street Under Siege have. We begin by raging for something to be done, and end, in spite of ourselves, by looking forward to the next gripping instalment.

Or perhaps we're too anxious about our parsnips to dwell on other people's tragedies. The automatic bestsellerdom of any TV cook (currently the estimable Ms Grigson urging us to eat our greens) suggests a nation so gastronomically insecure that we would starve without some unthreateningly named expert (Sophie, Delia, Jilly) to hold our hands.