A desperate quest for transformation 

Why I resigned from the New York Times to start a Balkan Summer of Love

By Daniel Simpson

Life’s too short to waste on dead-end jobs. When this dawned on me in 2003, I was an ambitious young foreign correspondent for the New York Times, and my colleagues were enabling the invasion of Iraq. Freaked out by pro-war hype, I promptly quit.

Disillusioned, I went native in the Balkans, where I'd been stationed. I met a man who had plans for a 21st century Woodstock: a festival on an island in the Danube. Together, we smoked strong hash and got ideas. 

Music could help the region reinvent itself. Wars had destroyed Yugoslavia. Serbia, its last big republic, was run by the mafia, and youngsters with ambition tried to leave. But what if we made it the party hub of Europe? We could start by importing Western acts and tourists. Within months, it would be Ibiza crossed with Glastonbury. Mutually hostile neighbours would be reconciled.

A Rough Guide to the Dark Side explains how not to change the world. The festival's grandiose visions undermined it. Serbian gangsters muscled in and took control. Our best intentions went awry. I was forced to face a painful truth: what needed changing was inside me. I'd been eager to follow my heart, but could I live with what it held?

Eventually, I wound up in a yoga class

The book is available via Amazon in the U.S., the UK and elsewhere, or in bookshops (ISBN: 978-1780993072). It can also be ordered from Book Depository, with free delivery worldwide. A Serbian translation is forthcoming.

Reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson
— Small Press Reviews
Funny, angry and insightful
— A.L. Kennedy
Uproarious story... important message
— Phillip Knightley
Packed with... uncontrived humour
— Green Left Weekly
Original, colourful and opinionated
— The Herald
Worth a lifetime of slavish bylines
— David Crossland


ZERO: The Opening Chapter

Downloadable here in PDF

"I never really meant to join the underworld. I fell in. Fate proved far more powerful than me..." 

Sonic Youth & Serbian Mayhem

As published in Perfect Sound Forever

"Putting on a festival was alchemy. If we hadn't transcended our limits, it couldn't have happened. My partner's magic had simple principles: he clarified intentions at the outset, and detached himself completely from the outcome..."


The Crazy Stuff (Funemployment)

THE Serious BITS (Radio NZ)