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The bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andrić

The bridge on the Drina (original 1945; edition 1977)

by Ivo Andrić, Lovett F. Edwards (Translator), William H. McNeill (Introduction)

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1,292256,064 (4.11)208
Title:The bridge on the Drina
Authors:Ivo Andrić
Other authors:Lovett F. Edwards (Translator), William H. McNeill (Introduction)
Info:Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
Collections:Your library, To read
Tags:fiction, male author, serbian, bosnia, historical fiction, university of chicago press, bookshelf43

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The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (1945)

Recently added byOberlinSWAP, private library, evelynk28, Marjan.Max.Maric, TMINST, ericandsue, haeesh, schmechi, rudycrespo
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English (19)  French (1)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  German (1)  All languages (25)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
After reading reviews of this book, I note many reviewers believe this to be a principal work on the Balkan mentality, as did Stefan.(who recommended it to us...our guide on the Eastern Europe river cruise) I noted that the book is used as instruction to students as there are several study guides available for a fee. I found one dissenting view to this work, and perhaps I’ll read that later. Right now, I am eager to read the book to glean from it what I can. I hope, too, that we three can make some sense of it!
The Introduction afforded most of the comments I made on this paper, while the first three chapters of the book left me with a vague sense that I am missing something important, like symbolism or something. Or does the mentality that I hope to understand begin here? Certainly Ivo’s early life experiences provided him with a unique understanding of the mentalilty of folks in the region thus an ability to be honest in his portrayal of the fictional characters.
It is no wonder that I am, as many people are, confused by the complexity of the region because on page 8 in the introduction, we are told how society is structured, both by religion and languages. So we have the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Moslems plus all of the dialects that were used. It would be difficult to say which group one or another belonged to.
I didn’t know that Yugoslavia had been called the “Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenia” in 1918. Animosity among the three was always there and is no better now. Andric probed for the roots of the social conflict in the past. He had grown up in a world where “rival and mutually incompatible world views found themselves in acute conflict.” (p 12) We Americans did not grow up in a culture with such conflict, although as a married woman I experienced a small conflict between Ukrainian American traditions and Italian American ones. Moslems in the US are asking for changes in our religious celebrations, may be terrorist sponsors, may deny women the roles we ourselves have, etc. We need to understand their mentality before we can work to assimilate them into our national cultu
Andric’s portraits of Visegrad folks demonstrate “truth, insight and sympathy.”
As I began to read the novel, I realized I needed to look online for pictures of the bridge. It is located between today’s Bosnia and Serbia. Andric portrays the Christians and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Chapter One begins with several myths. They must be significant to the mentality of the peoples, I think, but how? (infant twins sacrificed, black Arab in the pier loophole, hoofprints of the supernatural-sized horse or winged character). None of the three I mentioned could be explained by the people back in the 16thC, so people created the myths. But is that not common among any illiterate peoples? I wonder if I am missing a connection to the mentality. Poor ill-fated Radisav even has a myth about his grave, albeit the Serbs and Turks each have their own.
There are some clues to character of Visegrads…melancholic serenity, easy-going, prone to pleasure, spendthrifts.
Even the Vezir who had stabbing heart pains believed a fairy tale, that if he built a bridge on the Drina, his pain would stop.
How about that Abigada! So cruel! Turns out he didn’t want to fall into disgrace. His enemies would laugh at him. (Actually, I would not like that either, but would not go to such lengths as he, to get people to do their jobs. Could this same fear be the root of behavior of many mean bosses?)
Stambul is mentioned. It is the old part of Istanbul.
Dalmation masons came from Dalmatia in Croatia.
I found it amusing how the editors of the novel hyphenate English at the end of lines: thou-ghts, blin-king.
The detailed description of Radisav’s impalement is horrid! His curse…”Turks on the bridge, may you die like dogs.”

A bit difficult to read due to outdated language and translation issues, I never did finish it.
  bereanna | Jan 10, 2015 |
The titular bridge is the main character of this most famous work by Ivo Andric. The choice to make the bridge the most central element of the work has both strengths and weaknesses: the focus allows Andric to explore the history of the town of Višegrad over a period far longer than a human life, weaving vignettes together to cover hundreds of years of Bosnian history. By the time you complete the work you are left feeling like you have a sense of not just the town, but the history of the region and its peoples. Note, however, that this feeling is likely misleading, as this is a work of fiction and to take it as a source for actual history is a mistake. There are textbooks and academic articles out there that provide a better overview on Bosnian history than this book. Nevertheless, it's an impressive thing for a book to make you feel like you've learned about something on such a scale in little over 300 pages.

The weaknesses of focusing on the bridge is that it eliminates the possibility of there being a cast of human characters that last to the end of the narrative. Instead characters are introduced and disappear as the book skips ahead in time, sometimes revealing the fate of a character but more often forgetting about him or her. As I mentioned above, the narrative is essentially a series of vignettes or short stories using the same setting over a long period of time. Some of these vignettes are interesting, some aren't. There was no character that appears in enough vignettes for me to truly care about him or her, instead because they were sure to be discarded in a few chapters the characters inspired little emotion. I found that this caused the novel to have a rather detached feeling to it, further magnifying the feeling that this book was more a fictionalized historical overview than it was a literary work.

Ivo Andric clearly wasn't trying to focus on an individual or family in this book, instead he aimed to depict an entire town, and a historically complex one at that. In this ambition he succeeded, so long as questionable historical accuracy is ignored. However, the success of Ivo's goal came at the expense of my investment in the story. I'm sure this book is some people's favorite, but I found it to be only okay. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
No strong feelings about this book one way or the other-- except for exasperation with most of the chapters ending with some variation of "but the bridge remained the same as always." ( )
  KatrinkaV | Jun 12, 2014 |
The book starts several hundred years in the past with the building of the title bridge, near the village of Visegrad (now in Bosnia and Herzegovina). From there, each chapter is a story in the life of the town, the bridge, and the changing political landscape of the area. Over the years, trouble and occupiers come repeatedly, altering the fortunes of the people in the town.

It's really more like a short story collection than a novel; the stories are often interconnected, with people from previous ones appearing again. But there's really no through-line except the eternal nature of the bridge, and the insistence of the people of Visegrad, who are described as happy-go-lucky spendthrifts, on finding a way to make their lives normal despite whatever is going on around them. The bridge has affected every aspect of their lives. Although the positives of the bridge were readily apparent (connections to other towns, a place to socialize), the negatives became clearer and clearer: it made Visegrad a strategic location and therefore a target as various wars have raged throughout the region.

Covering the years up through World War I and written in 1945, there were more conflicts to come for the region beyond this book's scope. In fact, a massacre took place in 1992 at Visegrad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vi%C5%A1egrad_massacres). The book definitely gave me a clearer picture of the history of the area, but since I'm not much of a fan of short stories I sometimes had trouble picking it up again for the next chapter. Often, my motivation for finishing a book is the desire to know what happens next, what is in store for the characters. That overarching interest is missing in a vignette-based book, and I found my mind wandering in spite of the enjoyment I got out of individual stories.

Recommended for: public-transport commuters (most of the chapters are probably about the length of a bus or train ride), people interested in a microcosmic look at the history of Bosnia and Serbia.

Quote: "And the significance and substance of its existence were, so to speak, in its permanence. Its shining line in the composition of the town did not change, any more than the outlines of the mountains against the sky. In the changes and the quick burgeoning of human generations it remained as unchanged as the waters that flowed beneath it. It too grew old, naturally, but on a scale of time that was much greater not only than the span of human existence but also than the passing of a whole series of generations, so that its ageing could not be seen by human eye. Its life, though mortal in itself, resembled eternity for its end could not be perceived." ( )
  ursula | Oct 20, 2013 |
This is one of my all-time favorite novels. Not only does it provide a poignant story of the cultural history of the Balkans, but it is beautifully written (this translation is exquisite). ( )
1 vote ErinKennedy | Sep 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ivo Andricprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bruno MeriggiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, Lovett F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McNeill, William H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains or through deep ravines with precipitous banks.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226020452, Paperback)

The Bridge on the Drina is a vivid depiction of the suffering history has imposed upon the people of Bosnia from the late 16th century to the beginning of World War I. As we seek to make sense of the current nightmare in this region, this remarkable, timely book serves as a reliable guide to its people and history.

"No better introduction to the study of Balkan and Ottoman history exists, nor do I know of any work of fiction that more persuasively introduces the reader to a civilization other than our own. It is an intellectual and emotional adventure to encounter the Ottoman world through Andric's pages in its grandiose beginning and at its tottering finale. It is, in short, a marvelous work, a masterpiece, and very much sui generis. . . . Andric's sensitive portrait of social change in distant Bosnia has revelatory force."—William H. McNeill, from the introduction

"The dreadful events occurring in Sarajevo over the past several months turn my mind to a remarkable historical novel from the land we used to call Yugoslavia, Ivo Andric's The Bridge on the Drina."—John M. Mohan, Des Moines Sunday Register

Born in Bosnia, Ivo Andric (1892-1975) was a distinguished diplomat and novelist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. His books include The Damned Yard: And Other Stories, and The Days of the Consuls.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:23:45 -0400)

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