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Black Butterflies

de Priscilla Morris

MembrosResenhasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
1065261,836 (4.23)56
"Sarajevo. Spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents - whether Muslim, Croat or Serb - push the makeshift barriers aside. When violence finally spills over, Zora, an artist and teacher, sends her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind while the city falls under siege. As the assault deepens and everything they love is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over. Theirs is a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope."--Publisher.… (mais)
  1. 00
    The Cellist of Sarajevo de Steven Galloway (vancouverdeb)
    vancouverdeb: Both books are historical fiction that take place during the war in Sarajevo.
  2. 00
    Bolla de Pajtim Statovci (allthegoodbooks)
    allthegoodbooks: Same war but told from a female artist's point of view trapped in the city.
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Exibindo 5 de 5
Zora paints and teaches art to students in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and looks after her elderly mother. At 55, her she is well established in her work, as a practising artist and university professor. At first, the appearance of barricades in the streets to demarcate different communities, using old furniture and barbed wire just seems a bit strange, and residents push them out of the way, but there are ominous signs. Zora's older husband wants to go and stay with their daughter, now married to an English man and living there with him and their child. Zora stays behind, at first enjoying extra time to concentrate on her work. Sadly, earlier skirmishes are escalating into war and Zora's home city is under siege.

Priscilla Morris bases her story on family history - the stories of her own great-uncle Dobri, another painter, and her maternal grandparents, who all came to live in England after war broke out. Zora is a Bosnian Serb, as are those wanting to attack and divide the city, but she doesn't share their nationalist views - Sarajevo is a mixed city and she thinks trying to separate out the population out is absurd. Her husband is originally Slovene, and her neighbours and friends are from varied backgrounds.

Morris's portrayal of life in a city becoming a nightmare of destruction, death, loss, hunger, and the end of modern conveniences like toilets and running water is vivid, moving and sometimes frightening. Normal life has gone, and people in the city under siege form new connections. I found this short novel moving and sad. Zora's story and her views challenged some of my preconceptions of the war from the way it was reported here, and not only in mainstream media. ( )
  elkiedee | Nov 15, 2023 |
‘’’Black butterflies,’ he says softly...’Burnt fragments of poetry and art catching in people’s hair.’”

Zora is a teacher and an artist. She is in her mid-50s, living in Sarajevo. It is 1992 and war is erupted in her city. She sends her husband and daughter to England, to wait out the storm. She stays with her art and her students. Soon after, the city is surrounded and the siege begins, with violence breaking out everywhere around her. This is a novel of destruction and survival. Not always easy to read, but Zora’s journey is a remarkable one. It will also be a story that will stick with the reader, far after closing it’s covers. Beautifully done. ( )
  msf59 | Nov 9, 2023 |
*Shortlisted for the 2023 Women's Prize for Fiction*

4.5⭐️

Set in 1992 Sarajevo, Black Butterflies by Priscilla Morris is a harrowing (fictional) account of the first year of the Siege as seen from the perspective of fifty- five year old painter and Professor of Art at the Academy of Fine Arts , Zora Kočović, a civilian trapped in the war-torn city that has always been her home.

“Half of Sarajevo is Muslim, a quarter Serb, and fewer than one in ten Croat. A third of marriages are mixed, the children simply calling themselves ‘Yugoslav’.”

Predominantly secular and home to a multi-ethnic population, April 1992 saw Bosnian Serb Nationalists place Sarajevo under siege, intending to remove Bosnian Muslims – an act of “ethnic cleansing”. Anti-nationalist peace marches were met with sniper attacks and widespread violence. Zora, a Serb whose family has called Sarajevo home for generations, is heartbroken with what is happening around her. As the situation begins to worsen she sends her husband and her elderly mother to England to live with her daughter and her family with hopes that the situation is a temporary one and life would return to normal soon enough. Left on her own, she spends her time painting her favorite bridges and landscapes in her studio on the top floor of the Vijećnica (Town Hall), teaching and hoping for better days.

“There’s a new category here now: the good Serb, i.e. the Serb who is not a nationalist, who does not want to divide the country, to ethnically cleanse. I’m constantly having to reassure people that I’m a good Serb. It’s driving me insane.”

But when the unrest intensifies and all avenues to leave are gradually shut down, she is trapped, alone but for her neighbors and students, deriving comfort and support from one another. Braving the elements and coping with food shortages no electricity, no heat and no water while trying to stay alive amid mortar fire and sniper bullets they also bear witness to the destruction of the city they all love and the lives they built around it.

“We’re all refugees now, Zora writes to Franjo. We spend our days waiting for water, for bread, for humanitarian handouts: beggars in our own city.”

This is a brutally honest, informative and hard-hitting story. Given the subject matter, that is not surprising and the author paints a vivid picture of the struggles of daily life amidst a horrific war. Zora’s pain and despair are palpable as she tries to contact her family and find a way to leave when her living conditions become unbearable. While on one hand, the author is brutal in her description of the volatile political climate, violence and horrific living conditions, she also paints a poignant picture of strength and resilience, humanity and a sense of family and unity among those struggling to survive the war. The symbolism of Zora’s art and the significance of the title “Black Butterflies” against the upheaval and devastation Zora witnesses is of particular significance to this story. Zora's art is not only a source of engagement and comfort for her during those difficult times but also provides readers a brief glimpse into the folklore and historical Ottoman architecture of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I would urge you to read the Author’s Note wherein Morris talks about her family and the real events that inspired this novel.

Overall, I found this novel to be a well-researched, beautifully-written work of historical fiction. It is hard to believe that this is the author’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. ( )
  srms.reads | Sep 4, 2023 |
Zora lives in Sarajevo with her husband and elderly mother, and enjoys a successful career as an artist. When the Bosnian War breaks out in 1992, they decide her mother would be better off with Zora’s daughter in England. They agree Zora will stay behind to work while her husband Franjo manages the travel and helps her mother settle in. But when the Siege of Sarajevo begins, the borders close and soon all avenues of communication are cut off.

What Zora hoped would be short-lived inconvenience soon devolves into a nightmare. The streets are patrolled by armed military personnel and there are constant fears of sniper attack. Explosions damage apartment blocks and residents have to cover their windows with bin liners. Food supplies run short, and relief organizations begin delivering aid packages. The electric and water utilities become unpredictable. Zora and other residents of her building band together for survival. She is highly resilient, but the emotional toll cannot be overstated.

This is a quick, but not easy, read. As Zora’s situation worsened, I could not help being gripped by fear. Fortunately the ending offers hope, at least for Zora, although the actual siege continued well beyond the events in this novel, ending in 1996–the longest siege of a capital city in modern history. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jun 28, 2023 |
The story takes place in 1992 Sarajevo. Zora Kocovic is an artist at the Academy of Fine Arts. When war breaks out, Zora's husband and her elderly mother flee to England. Zora cannot envision living anywhere but Sarajevo, and thus she stays behind. Over time , the conflict gets worse, food is scarce, as is electricity and water. Other occupants of Zora's apartment building band together to survive and support one another.

A quote that struck me was " Somewhere beyond the ring of mountains, other people - normal people , living in freedom - are swimming in the sea. and hiking in the mountains. They're eating bowls of cereal with ice cold milk while watching breakfast TV". page 127. That quote is so accurate, as war continues on in Ukraine, and we who are not directly involved in the tend to take our freedom for granted .

A moving and insightful read. ( )
  vancouverdeb | Jun 7, 2023 |
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"Sarajevo. Spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents - whether Muslim, Croat or Serb - push the makeshift barriers aside. When violence finally spills over, Zora, an artist and teacher, sends her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind while the city falls under siege. As the assault deepens and everything they love is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over. Theirs is a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope."--Publisher.

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