Looking at this face it is tempting to see dignity and compassion.
That is until you know that it is Radovan Karadžić, found guilty last week at the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague; found guilty of ten out of eleven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and other atrocities during the Balkan conflict in the 1990s. The story has run and run, as indeed did Karadžić for years, disguising himself as a mystic faith-healer, so as to escape justice.
Veteran Guardian writer, Ed Vulliamy (62), has been involved in this story as an investigative reporter since the 1990s and has also written a book about it and about his relationship with Karadžić. In 2012, The War is Dead, Long Live the War. Bosnia: the Reckoning was reviewed by John Simpson for the Observer. Vulliamy met Karadžić, several times: he took an ITN crew to film the concentration camps in Bosnia and, many years later, he visited him, at Karadžić’s request, in prison, before finally giving evidence at the trial.
Vulliamy is also a friend of Irish writer, Edna O’Brien (85), author of The Little Red Chairs (2015). When she was researching the novel Vulliamy arranged for her to visit Karadžić’s trial. “I have an interest in and a great abiding fear of tyranny, and especially male tyranny” explains O’Brien.
In the novel O’Brien imagines that a character, Vlad Dragan, similar to Karadžić, ends up in a small town in Ireland. The inhabitants seeing a face like the one at the top of this page, analyse it, as one might, as dignified and compassionate. The novel deals with many things, but the images that stick in one’s head are the ones involving Fidelma, the heroine, and Vlad. Fidelma, childless and unhappily married, falls in love with, and becomes pregnant by, the newcomer. Then, in a brutal scene, the baby miscarries as she is beaten by former associates of her lover. Fidelma travels to Holland to attend the trial and requests a visit with Vlad. There is also a dream sequence in which she meets him in the “conjugal room”. O’Brien is fascinated by the seductive power of evil and stated in an interview with the Telegraph that she wanted to show “something of the suffering and the violations and the monstrousness of what is happening in the world”. Fidelma suffers violation and some “monstrousness” but she is resilient and struggles to retrieve her sense of herself. Many other women in the novel also show strength and fortitude in the face of “male tyranny”.
For this blog I have placed the image of Karadžić under my quotation from Milton as these words seem to encapsulate him: a man of great charisma who channeled his psychological talents into abominable cruelty, repressing his honour and compassion until they were, along with his victims, annihilated.
O’Brien, E. The Little Red Chairs 2015 London: Faber & Faber. 2015. Print.
Vulliamy, E. The War is Dead, Long Live the War. Bosnia: the reckoning. London: Vintage. 2013 Print.