LETTERS: Bosnia's universal lessons

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The Independent Online
I SHARE the scepticism of your commentator Marcus Tanner about the ceasefire in Bosnia ("A farewell to arms - but for how long?", 15 October). But I don't share his understanding of the famous, often misinterpreted words of Ivo Andric: "Bosnia is a land of hate and fear. It is a hatred like cancer consuming everything around it ..."

Andric did not write those words in a "strange letter in 1921", as Mr Tanner suggests. They appear in his story, A letter from 1920, published after the Second World War. The words are spoken by a character in the story, a Jew who decides to leave Bosnia after the First World War.

This would be of little matter if Andric had not, at the end of the story, taken this character to Spain, where he was killed in the Civil War. The message is clear: there is no escape from human hatred. The Bosnian fever is a human disease.

As we watch the atrocities in Bosnia we might, rightly, think "Bloody Bosnian savages". But we would do better to remind ourselves "Ecco Homo!" - "Behold the man!" - or would that be too disturbing a thought for us to live with?

Professor Zdenko Lesic

School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London