Foreign Policy Magazine

Never Let It Go

Novelists ask whether societies can rebound from tragedy—and live to forget.

In 1993, during the Bosnian war, the American journalist David Rieff went to Belgrade to interview a leading Serbian politician. “As I was leaving his office,” Rieff writes in his new book, In Praise of Forgetting, “one of his young aides pressed a folded bit of paper into my hand. It turned out to be blank except for a date: 1453—the year Orthodox Constantinople fell to the Muslim Ottomans.” The religious and ethnic war of the 20th-century Balkans, the note implied, was rooted in injuries dating back centuries. This anecdote gets straight to the moral

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