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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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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 Andrić (1945)

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» See also 192 mentions

English (18)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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 |
A centuries- long saga, firmly revolving around an ancient bridge. The bridge literally spans a dividing line (river) of Christian and Muslim worlds. The stories contain colorful characters, people of varying ethnic and religious heritages, a peaceable community a times; a brutal, tortured zone of distrust at others, mainly wrought by machinations in distant capitals. The stories began to drone along, and I lost interest. ( )
  JamesMScott | Aug 11, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (67 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ivo Andrićprimary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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