Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West

Written on the brink of World War II and then published in 1941, Rebecca West’s ( and classic examination of the history, people, and politics of Yugoslavia illuminates a region that is still a focus of international concern.

A magnificent blend of travel journal, cultural commentary, and historical insight, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941) probes the troubled history of the Balkans and the uneasy relationships among its ethnic groups. The landscape and the people of Yugoslavia are brilliantly observed as West untangles the tensions that rule the country’s history as well as its daily life. West died on 15 March 1983 (aged 90) which means she didn’t live to see the horrors of the Balkan conflicts which erupted in 1991 ( One wonders if she had a sense that all this was inevitable. At any rate, this is a very fine read.

The Penguin Classics edition offers a fine introduction by Christopher Hitchens (

An excellent follow up read for anyone interested in the subject is Misha Glenny’s The Fall of Yugoslavia (3rd revised edition 1996) (

1218 pages in Canongate Books Ltd. paperback edition

ISBN 978-1841957876

Rebecca West

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