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The Slave Girl and Other Stories (CEU Press…

The Slave Girl and Other Stories (CEU Press Classics) (Central European… (2009)

by Ivo Andrić

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262659,721 (4.4)5
  1. 00
    The Damned Yard and Other Stories by Ivo Andrić (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: The other main collection of short stories trans. to English

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A wrenchingly beautiful, yet harrowing read. The stories lay bare the way a community can tyrannize any member who is different, weak, or socially isolated. Many of the stories are about women who are unable to conform to the social expectations meted out to them. Each story is set up in a way that first introduces the woman and her situation from the point of view of the community. The community judges her lucky. But soon the viewpoint will shift to the woman herself, and to her daily experience of private suffering, suffering that builds to a breaking point, and then something terrible (usually) or something wonderful (occasionally) happens to release her.

Andric's understanding of private suffering, particularly of women's suffering, is uncanny. He hammers away at the damage done to women in communities where men have all the power.

I'm trying to find an apt comparison with something you may have read...Andric's stories are something, I suppose, like what Chekhov would have written, had he been writing in Europe in the mid-twentieth century. I was unsettled by this collection but I'm glad to have read it. I think you will be as well. ( )
1 vote poingu | Mar 30, 2013 |
Ivo Andrić won the Nobel in 1961 for his stories about Bosnia. He is most famous for the novel The Bridge on the Drina, which for most readers is the main Andrić experience. Yet, according to the Introduction in this volume, Andrić was foremost a short-story writer and not a novelist. His novels are constructed as collections of stories, weaved together to form a whole (except for The Woman from Sarajevo which is his one work most like a traditional novel). So to fully appreciate Andrić, you have to know he was a prolific short-story writer who published 6 volumes of short stories (compared with 5 novels), most of which have never been translated into English. Only in 2009 was a second collection of stories translated and published, by Central European Press under review here, using as theme those stories that have a woman as a central character. It's a hugely generous volume at over 535 pages, footnotes and glossary, two introductions (one at over 20 pages is equal to anything in a Oxford or Penguin edition). There are 22 stories total, 2 of which are 100 page novellas. Ten of the stories I think are classics and easily stand up to anything by Tolstoy or Thomas Mann, two authors he is commonly compared to. The quality of the stories, exotic setting and writing blew me away. This is a great and unexpected find, it is my first Andrić and I plan to continue reading more of his "wisdom literature".

Andrić mostly writes about small provincial mountain villages, kasabas, in Turkish Bosnia during the 19th century. The mixture of Christian and Muslim is well known to modern readers who have followed the wars in the Balkans in the late 20th century, here we have a taste of the origins of those conflicts. The pre-industrial rugged and colorful beauty of the landscape, dress, manners, food, etc.. are reflected in the stories of the people. Andrić' has a whiff of ancient tales, like old people recounting the stories of evil deeds from times past as a warning to the young (Kyser Soze!). Yet they are not moralizing. They tell how things happened with no clear answer why. Andrić tells the events of what people do, but does not try to determine why, he doesn't psychologically analyze, and so people do things for no clear reason, which is really how life is. Andrić is focused on what people do, and the consequences of those actions on other people around them. The cause seems to be self-evident in the texture of the background - the geography, the customs, history and political events, human foibles. It's really a simple approach, ancient in style, akin to verbal storytelling such as fairy-tales, but Andrić raises it to timeless literature.

To help me remember these stories, I wrote short plot summaries of my favorites which can be read here if so interested.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2010 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | Oct 28, 2010 |
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