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War Fare is the personal memoir of author Mira Crouch's life, as a quite young person (born in 1932), living in Belgrade, during the wartime years of 1941-1945. Crouch has lived in Sydney, Australia since 1952; and presently, she is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies, at the University of New South Wales, Australia. As explained in the memoir's "Introduction", Crouch was past three score years and ten when she felt the need to leave for her son a record (of her wartime childhood), in the form of a continuous narrative. And indeed, the ensuing memoir penned by Crouch is the skillfully crafted embodiment of anecdotally recollected bits and pieces of her early life, with a sharp focus on the war marred years of 1941-1945.
The stylistic signature of Crouch, in somewhat paradoxical fashion, shows very distinct flourishes of poetic type beauty, entwined as well with frankly sobering candor tethered to the ugliness of war. Exhibiting the keen vision of a quite advanced artist, Crouch revealingly paints an anecdotally detailed picture of her war shattered childhood. These anecdotal details are screened discerningly in careful search of insights. Crouch's autobiographic account of enduring the horribly aberrant circumstances of war will likely hold the reader in thrall.
The actual writing of the memoir was not done contemporaneously with Crouch's life during the war years described principally, of 1941-1945. This non contemporaneous relationship may give vent to critical emissions that the memoir's details, as recounted anecdotally by Crouch, and likewise the insights attached to these recollected anecdotes, may have been impacted considerably by diverse factors, extending to imperfect memory and age honed wisdom.
The path traveled substantively by the memoir is in close alignment with time: commencing with the time sequence of Spring 1941 (traversed in Chapter One); and ending with the time frame of Summer 1945 (covered in the "Epilogue"). Within this time context, Crouch's life story is detailed in comprehensive fashion.
Following the Epilogue are "Notes" (in the form of research citations and annotated materials), which add flesh to the bones of references implanted in the memoir's substantive corpus.
Further contributing to the absorbing nature of the memoir are a series of photographs (predominantly of members of Crouch's family), interspersed in its body. These pictures act to breathe animating life, into the memoir's nostrils.
The murderous cruelty of war is chronicled lamentably by Crouch with specific reference to several family members, lethally including the blood of murder flowing from the veins of Crouch's much beloved father ("Tata"). As Crouch explains, Tata was taken forcibly from home by police (because: Jews "must be in camps"). Later, Tata was murdered; and his corpse was dumped into a mass grave. The special bond of great love binding Crouch and her father is a strand interwoven prominently into the tapestry of the memoir.
Blood flowed, as well, from other murdered family members. Crouch's relative ("Boshko"), as described in the memoir, was taken away, by "Partisans" ("for questioning"); he was then shot in the back of the head.
The senseless brutality of war, as the reader learns further, may cruelly fell seemingly random victims. In this respect, Crouch's relative ("little Mile") appeared at first to be unhurt by the explosion of a "stray" artillery shell. But a fragment of the shell had actually ruptured his spleen; and shortly following surgery, little Mile succumbed to infection.
There is much more to the memoir's substance than sobering descriptions of murder and killing. Many of the details recounted by Crouch shed revealing light on mundane aspects of everyday life, as entrapped in the boiling cauldron of war.
Many of the memoir's chapters, in this regard, have a substantive savor emanating from Crouch's discussions of food, in the particular context of impoverishing wartime realities. Absorbingly described ingredients of this war depleted stew include: variants of bread; chicken meals; food parcels (for imprisoned family members); cabbage dishes (such as cabbage salad); the wartime staple food of beans (notably including the bean based dish called "pasulj"); and also, "djuvetch", "moussaka", and "polenta".
Other anecdotal data described by Crouch candidly cast illumining light on the area of war enshrouded physical needs, emotional urges, and behavioral strengths and frailties.
Frankly, all of humanity stands to benefit very considerably from a pensive reading of this detail laden, and insightful, memoir. In a professional sense, the memoir's contents may pique especially the interest of, among others, war historians, Holocaust scholars, psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists.
© 2009 Leo Uzych
Link: Fisher Imprints
Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University. His area of special professional interest is healthcare.