Watching out for bears and carefully avoiding the landmines marked on his decayed military maps, British journalist Tim Butcher journeys through the life of an assassin, Gavrilo Princip. On June 28, 1914 the idealistic teenager “Gavro” pulled a gun on Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary. With one shot, Europe’s tangled mess of monarchies fell into an inexorable war of attrition.
Published in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Great War and written in clear, friendly prose, Tim Butcher’s travelogue The Trigger provides a unique perspective on that complex period in history. To understand the gun behind the bullet, the man behind the gun and the tale behind the man who started World War One, Butcher must travel back to the beginning of a conflict so destructive it was known as “The War to End All Wars.”
Accompanied by his trusty friend and translator Arnie, Butcher begins in the small and rugged town of Obljaj and moves through Belgrade and Sarajevo. He interviews Princip’s descendants still kindling their relative’s myth, uncovers relics and remnants, relates salient notes on Balkan history and illuminates the war-torn region whose native son became one of Europe’s most important (though hitherto neglected) triggermen. Having covered the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s, Butcher effortlessly marshals information about the conflicts that have shaped the troubled region. His discussion passes easily through national character, the effects of religious fervor, terrorism, teenage rebellion and the seeds of WWII. The result: an easily digestible work that is wholly worthwhile for both armchair travelers and those intrepid travelers willing to navigate the Balkans – landmines included.