One of five war books he recommended to readers of The Daily Beast who have already read the best-known war books:
Pretty BirdsRead about the other books on his list.
by Scott Simon
Simon, the affable host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, tells the story of a fictionalized teenage Bosnian sniper based on his actual time in the 1990s covering the war in Sarajevo. His is a beautifully rendered novel of modern urban warfare. Irena, a half-Muslim former high school basketball star, is both a refugee struggling in near-impossible circumstances, and a guerilla.
The contemplation of the rules of war—its situational morality—is made all the more cruel in the mind of a teenager: her chief Tedic “had told her not to shoot at children. The morals were dubious and the publicity devastating. On her own, Irena had determined that she would not shoot at pets. Tedic had instructed her not to shoot at grandmothers, and when she’d wondered if grandfathers were included by the same logic, he had reminded her that Milosevic and Karadzic could have grandchildren…Irena decided that she would not shoot at someone who looked like Sting, the Princess of Wales, or Katarina Witt. She wanted to be able to enjoy looking at their pictures without seeing ghosts. She would not shoot at someone who was already wounded, though she would judge if someone limped because he had truly been wounded or because he had jammed his toe kicking a plugged-up toilet. Irena knew that Tedic would have a score of sensible objections to each of her rules. What if Serb snipers started tucking puppies under their arms? What if a Serb mortar team carried a little ginger cat as their mascot? Would she shrink from firing at a Serb setting off an artillery piece if he had eyebrows like Katarina Witt? Irena kept her rules in confidence so that she could not be reasoned out of them.”