Andric, Ivo (9 October 1892 - 13 March 1975)
Ivo Andrić (9 October 1892 - 13 March 1975)
Vasa D. Mihailovich
University of North Carolina
See also the Andrić entry in DLB 147: South Slavic Writers Before World War II.
BOOKS: Ex Ponto (Zagreb: Književni jug, 1918);
Nemiri (Zagreb: Sv. Kugli, 1920);
Put AlijeDjerzelza (Belgrade: S. B. Cvijanović 1920);
Pripovetke I (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1924);
Pripovetke (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1931);
Pripovetke II (Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga, 1936);
Izabrane pripovetke (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1945);
Na Drini ćuprija (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1945); translated by Lovett F. Edwards as The Bridge on the Drina (New York: Macmillan, 1959; London: Allen & Unwin, 1959);
Travnička hronika (Belgrade: Državni izdavački zavod Jugoslavije, 1945); translated by Kenneth Johnstone as Bosnian Story (London: Lincolns-Prager/New York: London House & Maxwell, 1959);
Gospodjica (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1945); translated by Joseph Hitrec as The Woman from Sarajevo (New York: Knopf, 1965; London: Calder & Boyars, 1966);
Most na Žepi: Pripovetke (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1947);
Pripovijetke (Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska, 1947);
Nove pripovetke (Belgrade: Kultura, 1948);
Priča o vezirovom slonu (Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Hrvatske, 1948); expanded as Priča o vezirovom slonu, i druge pripovetke (Belgrade: Rad, 1960);
Priča o kmetu Simanu (Zagreb: Novo pokoljenje, 1949; expanded edition, Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1960);
Pod gradićem: Pripovetke o zivotu bosanskog sela (Sarajevo: Seljačka knjiga, 1952);
Prokleta avlija (Novi Sad: Matica srpska, 1954); translated by Johnstone as Devil’s Yard (New York: Grove, 1962; London: Calder, 1964);
Panorama (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1958);
Sabrana djela Ive Andrića, 16 volumes, edited by Vera Stojić, Petar Džadžić, Muharem Pervić, and Radovan Vućković (Belgrade: Prosveta/Zagreb:
Mladost / Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1963-1976)-comprises volume 1, Na Drini ćuprija; volume 2, Travnižka hronika; volume 3, Godpodjica; volume 4, Prokleta avlija; volume 5, Nemirna godina; volume 6, žed; volume 7, Jelena, žena koje nema; volume 8, Znakovi; volume 9, Deca; volume 10, Staze, lica, pre-deli; volume 11, Ex Ponto, Nemiri, Lirika; volume 12, Istorija i legenda: Eseji, ogledi i članci; volume 13, Umetnik i njegovo delo; volume 14, Znakovi pored puta; volume 15, Kuća na osami i druge pripovethe; and volume 16, Omer paša Latas;
Ljubav u kasabi: Pripovetke (Belgrade: Nolit, 1966);
Aska i vuk: Pripovetke (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1968);
Eseji i kritike, edited by Ljubo Jandrić (Sarajevo: Syjet lost, 1976);
Sveske, volume 17 of Sabrana djela Ive Andrića (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1982).
Editions in English: “The Žepa Bridge,” translated by L. Vidaković, Slavonic Review, 14 (1926): 398-405;
“Gjerzelez at the Inn,” translated by N. B. Jopson, Slavonic and East European Review, 14 (July 1935):13-19;
“Gerzelez at the Gypsy Fair,” translated by Jopson, Slavonic and East European Review, 14 (April 1936):556-563;
The Vizier’s Elephant: Three Novellas, translated by Drenka Willen (New York: Harcourt, Brace World, 1962);
Bosnian Chronicle, translated by Joseph Hitrec (New York: Knopf, 1963);
“The Story of a Bridge,” “Miracle at Olovo,” and “Neighbors,” translated by Michael Scammel in Death of a Simple Giant and Other Modern Yugoslav Stories, edited by Branko AlanLenski (New York:Vanguard, 1965), pp. 19-53;
“The Climbers” and “The Bridge on the Žepa,” in Yugoslav Short Stories, translated by Svetozar Koljević (London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), pp. 185-236;
The Pasha’s Concubine and Other Tales, translated by Hitrec (New York: Knopf, 1968);
“Death in Sinan’s Monastery,” translated by James Barham, Southern Humanities Review, 21, no. 4 (1987):329-339;
The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia under the Influence of Turkish Rule, translated by želimir B. Juričić and John F. Loud (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990);
Conversation with Goya; Bridges; Signs, translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Andrew Harvey (London: Menard Press with the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1992);
The Damned Yard and Other Stories, translated by Hawkes worth and others (London & Boston: Forest Books, 1992)-includes “A Letter from the Year 1920,” translated by Lenore Grenoble;
The Days of the Consuls, translated by Hawkes worth and Bogdan Rakić (London & Boston: Forest Books, 1992).
Ivo Andrićc is one of the best-known writers in the South Slav literatures. In short stories and several novels he presents the people of Bosnia, a small area in the heart of Europe, with several nationalities and four religions. He documents its long, mostly turbulent history with a plethora of remarkable characters. By immortalizing them, he has thrown light on this region that has so often erupted in violence and internecine struggle. Andrić was able to couch these events and characters in highly artistic forms that have fascinated readers all over the world and earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature, which he received in 1961.
He was born Ivan Andrić on 9 October 1892 in Dolac, a small town near Travnik in central Bosnia. Both his parents were Catholics. His father, Ivan Antun Andrić, a coppersmith, moved his family to Sarajevo soon after Andrić’s birth. When his father died of tuberculosis in 1894, his impoverished mother, Kata-rina Andrić (nèe Pejić), moved with her only child to Višegrad, a town on the Drina River. Andrić completed elementary school in Višegrad and high school in Sarajevo. He attended universities in Zagreb, Vienna, and Kraków, sponsored by Hrvatsko Kulturno Drustvo “Naprednok” in Sarajevo. Because of his radical nationalistic activities, he was arrested by the Austrians as a member of the revolutionary group Young Bosnia and spent three years in prison. He was released in 1917 because of poor health and a lack of evidence against him. In prison he wrote his first work, a book of prose poems, Ex Panto (1918), followed two years later by a similar volume, Nemiri (Unrest).
After World War I, Andrić entered the diplomatic service of the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia and served for two decades in various capitals. In 1923 he was a vice consul in Graz but was in danger of losing his position because he had not completed his university studies. He enrolled that fall at the University of Graz, and in 1924 he received his doctorate after defending his dissertation, written in German: “Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkiung der türkischen Herrschaft” (translated as The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia under the Influence of Turkish Rule, 1990). He returned to diplomatic service, throughout which he continued to write.
In the first twenty years of his literary career, he wrote almost exclusively short fiction, settling early upon the short story as the genre most appropriate to him. The main features of his narrative style are already discernible in his first stories, and there is relatively little change in his basic world view or in his literary craftsmanship during the five decades of his development.
The setting of Andrić’s work is most frequently Bosnia, with its plethora of races, nationalities, religions, and creeds. The narrow region of Bosnia, however, widens by implication into the whole country, indeed the entire world. Although Andrić frequently concentrates on the Turkish or Islamic element, he encompasses all nationalities and faiths. He often portrays Catholic characters also, whereas the third large group, the Orthodox Jews, remains somewhat in the background.
Andrić prefers to dwell on the distant past. For that reason many of his stories, as well as his novels, are called chronicles. In his treatment of minute detail he is scrupulously faithful to the historical sources, but he gives them artistic form. In stories dealing with the present, Andrić loses some of his ability to create lasting characters or convincing narratives. He is trying to solve the riddles of human existence by reference to the legends of the past. His constant journeys into the past do not signify an escape from the present reality but rather a keen understanding of the unity of time and space in the history of the Bosnian people.
Andrić’s characters display an acute sense of loneliness and are imbued with a pervasive silence about themselves. They seem to have difficulty in coming to an understanding with their fellowman. A typical Andrić character spends his life in the search for lost identity and in trying to findhis rightful place. As a symbol of the utter loneliness of his characters, Andrić uses the kasaba (a small, for saken Bosniantown off the main roads). Life in a kasaba is torpid, desolate, and bleak. Strong individuals are condemned to futility and withering away. When their pent-up passion or frustration erupts, these individuals come to a tragic end, pulling others into the abyss as well.
Basically, life in Andrić’s world is a reflection of the tragic element in human existence. His characters show an immense capacity for suffering. Sporadic happiness is but an illusion. Weak men vegetate under the spell of the strong, and strong men (in whom Andrić is most interested) are inconstant rebellion against their lot. The disparity between their powers and the limited opportunities provided by their surroundings drives them mad. In his first story, Put Alije Djerzeleza (1920; translated as “The Journey of Ali Djerzelez,” 1968), Andrić immediately raises the question of the meaning of human existence amid evil and suffering, a theme on which he will expound in many of his works. A legendary Bosnian figure (a hero of popular Muslim ballads), Alija vacillates between reality and dream, action and futility. This ambivalence results from Alija’s desire to elevate himself from the torpor of confinement into a world of feeling and beauty to which he thinks he belongs. But the pragmatic life takes its revenge: Alija becomes”ridiculous and glorious” at the same time. The fact that he subjugates everything to his insatiable sexual drive underscores the frustration of his strong personality. In the merciless ridicule that vengeful weaklings heap upon Alija, and in the rejection of his passion by the women of his choice, Andrić sees the tragic aspect of human destiny.
In another early story, ćorkan i švabica” (1921, ćorkan and a German Girl), Andrić again stresses a divergence of the two worlds in an individual. In most people’s eyes ćorkan, a grave- and ditchdigger, is a hapless fool, a target of practical jokes in the kasaba; in his own eyes, however, he is a thwarted poet of lofty sentiments, an incorrigible dreamer, and an admirer of feminine charms and beauty. Thus, stark, drab reality clashes once more with the delicate, peculiarly refined world of a Bosnian Don Quixote who, almost invariably, ends up misunderstood and miserable.
The efforts of people like Alija and ćorkan to extricate themselves from their confinement are almost never successful. One by one they succumb to their fate, although not without a fierce struggle. Being pitted against an unknown adversary produces in Andrić’s characters a twofold reaction: in many of them it has called forth a deep-seated fear of life and people; in others it has engendered a venomous hatred against life and one’s fellowman. The fear is found even among the children, whom Andrić often depicts, as if to show the primordial origin of this crippling sentiment. As Andrić mentions in “Mila i Prelac” (1936, Mila and Prelac), “Man has only to be born into this world and to open his eyes, and there is no end to what could happen to him.” And in “ćilim” (1948, The Rug) he writes, “Fear triumphs, bending man like grass whenever possible.”
This fear is often coupled with a vague feeling of guilt for having been born and for being what one is. Andrić’s stories often feature people who are mentally or physically handicapped or are otherwise suffering, who all carry deep in themselves a heavy burden of guilt, as if imposed upon them by fate. The guilt complex assumes many forms. It may be guilt because the character possesses an irresistible power of seduction, as in the case of the village beauty Anika in “Anikina vremena” (1931; translated as “Anika’s Times,” 1962), a power that ultimately leads to collective destruction. Or the guilt may arise from one’s inability to suppress effectively the call of the flesh, as in”Smrt u Sinanovoj tekiji” (1936; translated as “Death in Sinan’s Monastery,” 1987). The source of guilt may go back for generations and transcend logical boundaries, as in the story “Ekskurzija” (1955, Excursion). It is often an underlying feeling of inextricable debt to some unknown power for bestowing joy and sorrow, love and hatred—a feeling that only adds to the helplessness of Andrić’s characters.
This fear of life and feeling of guilt often result from the unjust persecution and needless suffering of Andrić’s characters. Entirely blameless people are punished, sometimes even only for thinking about an evil deed or for trying to avoid it. For example, a boy whose revenge-seeking friends damage his house is punished by his father without investigation in “Prozor” (1953, The Window).
Hatred in the people of Bosnia sometimes reaches pathological proportions. In “Mustafa Madžar” (1923; translated as “Mustapha Magyar,” 1968), one of Andrić’s most striking characters repeats vitriolically that “the world is full of rot.” A fearless warrior, he hates everyone and is, in turn, hated and feared by everybody. He ultimately dies a senseless death at the hands of a decrepit gypsy. The hatred is not always so spontaneous and irrational. Sometimes it is deliberately fostered by the conflicting variety of nationalities, races, and religions, which, under specific historical circumstances, pits one segment of the population against another or against all the rest. In Andrić’s words, Bosnia is a land of hatred. It appears, as he writes in “Pismoiz godine 1920” (1946; translated as “A Letter from 1920,” 1992), “as a self-sustained force that has an end in itself. … It is simply an agent of self-destruction.”
Andrić’s basic philosophy seems extremely skeptical and pessimistic; yet, Andrić does not negate life, despite its shortcomings. He firmly believes that there exists an unknown formula that governs the relationship between joys and sorrows. He conceives of life as a constant struggle between the opposites in nature, especially in the human soul. He said in one of his prose poems from Ex Ponto, “I am constantly watching the flower and the bloom and yet cannot help thinking about man.” Ubiquitous enmities and contradictions may, and often do, lead to individual tragedies but not to an unequivocal denial of life. If a clarification of the apparent senselessness of human existence cannot be obtained, there is still hope in a struggle against evil, no matter how futile such efforts may seem.
Andrić attempts to solve the problem of the meaning of life ontologically. His favorite metaphor in this respect is a bridge that connects opposites: myth and reality, the unlimited and limited, East and West. A manifest proof of human vitality and indestructibility amid apparent contradiction and decay in nature, a bridge is also a lasting monument of the human quest for art and beauty. It is not by reason and force that man conquers fate but by synthesis, silence, and beauty. The white, slender silhouette of a bridge represents for Andrić “an unusual thought gone astray and arrested in this strange wilderness,” which thus becomes at the same time a conqueror of evil and chaos, as he writes in “Most na žepi” (1925; translated as “The žepa Bridge,” 1926).
Another illustration of Andrić’s attempt to solve the basic problem of the meaning of man’s existence is found in an unusual allegorical story, “Aska i vuk” (1953, Aska and the Wolf). Aska, a young lamb, has lost its way in the woods and is confronted by a hungry wolf. The lamb begins to dance a highly artistic pantomime, which so intrigues the wolf that he not only forgets to eat the lamb but remains transfixed until he is ultimately slain. This dance from fear of death is transformed into a dance for life, thus symbolizing Andrić’s belief that as long as man tries to live fully, his nothingness remains irrelevant. In his own words, “art and will to resist are victorious over all evil, and even death.”
When World War II began, Andrić was an ambassador in Berlin. Because he disagreed with the Yugoslav government’s joining Adolf Hitler’s tripartite pact, he resigned in March 1941, thus ending his diplomatic career. Hitler captured Yugoslavia in less than two weeks. Andrić spent the entire occupation in Belgrade, turning to writing novels in quiet and isolation. These four years, permeated by wholesale death and destruction, were the most productive in Andrić’s literary career. He completed three novel sand published them in 1945, the first postwar Yugoslav publications after the victory over the Germans.
Perhaps his most important work, the novel Na Drini ćuprija (1945; translated as The Bridge on the Drina, 1959), is an encompassing saga covering the history of Bosnia between 1566 and 1914. However, Andrić wrote the novel not as history but as a chronicle of life in Bosnia and of characters of several generations. The novel is replete with details about the life of the Bosnians under the Turkish occupation. The most important is the so-called blood tribute, a practice of the Turkish rulers during the several hundred years of their occupation of the Balkans. It meant taking boys away from their parents and raising them as the sultan’s obedient servants, called janissaries. One such boy, taken from the Serbian village of Sokolovići in Bosnia in 1516 when he was only ten years old, later became Mehmed Pasha Sokolli and rose to the title of grand vizier—the highest position a non-Turk could attain in the Ottoman Empire. In memory of his childhood, he decided to build a bridge across the Drina River by the town of Visegrad, the last place where he had seen his mother when he was taken away.
The building of the bridge began in 1566, using slave labor conscripted in the Serbian villages nearby. The peasants not only resented having to work as slaves but also saw in the building of the bridge a sinister symbol of the Turkish might. For that reason they resisted its progress, often destroying at night what was built during the day. To frighten the distrusting and rebellious populace into submission and obedience, the builder Abidaga caught one of them, Radisav, and had him impaled at the site of the bridge. The excruciatingly painful process lasted several days.
The bridge was completed in 1571, a beautiful structure of eleven archesrising above the turbulent Drina, with a kapia—an elevated fixture in the middle of the bridge where people can sit and talk while drinking coffee— as a focal point. A caravansary was also built next to the bridge for tired travelers. Thus began the long influence of the bridge on every aspect of the lives of the people on the shores, who finally resigned them selves to it and learned even to like it because of its usefulness and its uncommon beauty. Mehmed Pasha was stabbed to death by a deranged dervish only a few years after the completion. Although he had accomplished many other things as a vizier, his name in Bosnia will forever be remembered by this bridge.
As the years and decades pass, life among the Muslims, Christians, and Jews keeps changing, but the bridge survives everything, shining “clean, young and unalterable, strong and lovely in its perfection, stronger than all that time might bring and men imagine to do.” The novel chronicles events both on a larger scale-cholera and plague in the nineteenth century, the Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1908, and the first bombs of World War I—and on an individual level, as when a beautiful girl, Fata, jumps from the kapia to her death during her wedding procession because her father is forcing her to marry a man she does not love. No matter how unquiet the waters that pass beneath the smooth and perfect arches of the bridge, nothing changes the bridge itself. It becomes a focal point of life in the town and surrounding villages.
The story is completely historical. The bridge was blown up during World War I, but it was rebuilt just as it was, and still stands. As a lifelong diplomat of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Andrić was also an astute student of history, and he often studied historical documents in preparation for writing his works. Even his doctoral thesis reveals his passion for history. Na Drini ćuprija encompasses the entire period of the Turkish rule of the Balkans, mirroring the birth and death of the Ottoman occupation of Bosnia. It is a broadly conceived panorama of cultural changes brought about by the Turkish reign and of the multicultural and multireligious state resulting from it. It also depicts inevitable and multifaceted conflicts in the area. The novel is, therefore, a good source of general information about Bosnia, although not a substitute for a scholarly history.
Andrić concludes half of the chapters with a short paragraph extolling the bridge as a symbol of the permanence of all life. Considering the constant changes taking place around the bridge, its permanence serves as a comforting and life-affirming value. Andrić imparts another symbolic meaning to the bridge by calling it a thing of beauty, a reflection of man’s age-old desire to create beauty and enrich life. The inborn need of man to express himself in arts found its fulfillment in the creation of this beautiful edifice that defies transience. The final symbolic interpretation of the bridge lies in its spanning the two shores, as if connecting two worlds, the East and the West, and different nationalities, religions, and cultures of Bosnia. As a diplomat who saw the main key to success in the art of compromise, Andrić used the metaphor of the bridge to underline the need for minimizing the differences for the sake of living in harmony. The strife in Bosnia in the 1990s clearly shows what happens when the plea that Andrić built into his novel is unheeded.
Travnička hronika (1945, The Travnik Chronicle); translated as Bosnian Story, 1959; as Bosnian Chronicle, 1963; and as The Days of the Consuls, 1992) is a chronicle of life in Travnik, a provincial Turkish capital in Bosnia, in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Travnik was an administrative seat at the westermost border of the Ottoman Empire and the residence of a vizier. The facts that the French had occupied nearby Dalmatia and that the Turks had been forced to retreat from Hungary made Travnik important beyond its true political and strategic value. The French sent in 1806 a consul, Jean Baptiste-Etienne Daville, to keep aneye on the Turks. This act, in turn, prompted the Austrians to send their own consul, Josef von Mitterer. Both find themselves under the constant vigil of the distrustful Turks. Non-Turkish inhabitants welcome them in their own ways: Catholic Croats are friendly toward their neighbor, von Mitterer, while shunning Daville; the Jews, of whom there is a small number, like Daville; while the Orthodox Serbs distrust both, pinning their hopes on Russia, which is expected to send their consul also. Yet, they are all powerless under the Turkish domination. Daville, a middle-aged diplomat who writes classical poetry and tries to keep the semblance of civilization in a backwater town where the lifestyle resembles that of the Middle Ages, finds it difficult to function, yet he endures for the sake of his idol Napoleon Bonaparte and for the glory of France. Von Mitterer has it some what easier since Bosnia is closer to Austria, and the non-Turkish population is more sympathetic. Both of them, however, have to deal primarily with Turkish viziers, who wield all power and can thwart all their efforts by various means. The work of the two Western consuls is further complicated by the necessity of playing against each other. The entire novel chronicles the lives and endeavors of these participants in world politics in a most unlikely place.
Even though the two consuls and their families eventually adjust to the unusual life in Travnik, both have difficulties leading a normal life, especially Daville’s gentle wife, who during their stay loses a child and gives birth to two others. yet, being more practical and more religious than her husband, she is better equipped to cope with life in a foreign land. When, finally, Napoleon’s fortunes turn sour and Daville’s mission is terminated, both he and his wife are glad to leave, as are von Mitterer and his family. The chronicle of the attempts of the Western powers to intrude in the life of this strange but fascinating country comes to an end, and Travnik again recedes into the darkness of a life outside of history, leaving its people to remember for a long time “the days of the consuls.”
The main theme of the novel is the contrast between the West and the East. The comparatively enlightened world of the West, represented by the consuls, is countered by the backward, mysterious, dark world of the East as it existed in the Turkish empire. Even though the opposing sides are not in an open conflict, the behavior of the players involved points to a tacit rivalry that is just as intense. The distrust with which the Westerners are met, not only by the Turkish officials but also by the people on the street, can only be explained by a deep-seated enmity. The antagonism goes beyond the political and national differences; it goes to the core of the way of life and thinking of the two worlds. Philosophical fatalism, resignation, deep mistrust of everything foreign, and a basic disregard for the rights of individuals—considered normal among the people of the East and the Turkish Empire—are pitted against the more open, compassionate, rational, and law-oriented ways of the West.
Andrić presents this drama not so much by musings and discussions about history but through the interplay of the characters, who are forced into situations beyond anything they have experienced before. This focus, in turn, adds a special dimension to the novel. That this novel is not simply an historical chronicle but primarily a story of the people caught in the maelstrom of history is further demonstrated by the psychological studies Andrić provides for most of his characters. In all of his works he is at his best when he illuminates the deepest recesses of the minds and hearts of his protagonists, no matter to what race, nationality, class, or creed they belong. This approach makes the novel more interesting than if it were strictly an historical chronicle. Thus, Travnik, its historical significance at the time notwithstanding, becomes a backdrop for several human dramas that make up the core of the novel. Even though almost all events and personalities can be traced back to historical sources, which Andrić had researched diligently, the historical events—the Napoleonic Wars, the reforms of Selim the Third, and the first Serbian uprising—are never in the forefront. In the last analysis, however, the actions of the characters are futile, because everything is decided for them elsewhere; the actors are like puppets directed by remote control, so to speak, achieving little by themselves as far as history is concerned.
Another important theme is the role of women in the novel. Unlike in many of his other works, Andrić sharply differentiates between oriental women, who are little more than objects of men’s pleasure, and the emancipated Western women, who are equal partners, with their own rights. Furthermore, the universal meaning of the novel can be seen as the need for perseverance in a hopeless, dead-end situation. This theme is symbolized by Daville’s hope at the end of the novel, before leaving Travnik, that”the right road“will eventually be found, his contrary Bosnian experience not-withstanding.
Like many other works, this novel serves Andrić in part as a vehicle for his own thoughts and ideas about life and history. Furthermore, just as the bridge on the Drina is the symbol of bridging the differences between worlds, Travnik is a symbol of the kasaba in the backwaters of an empire, where little is happening, yet people continue to strive against all odds. Thus, even though the picture Andrić presents is often bleak and melancholy, life pulses beneath the surface with full vigor. His mastery of a penetrating psychological study of his characters against the backdrop of events over which they have little control, yet somehow survive and move forward, has reached in Travnicka hronika its highest peak.
His next novel, Gospodjica (1945, Miss; translated as The Woman from, Sarajevo, 1965), has several fascinating aspects: Andrić’s concentration on one character and the resulting depth of portraiture; the brilliant penetration into the psyche of a woman unusual in many ways; the author’s strange attachment to this character, an attitude Andrić has shown in few other works; and the setting in a more modern time rather than the distant past. For these reasons, Gospodjica, though less acclaimed critically than most of Andrić’s other works, has a significance of its own.
At the beginning of the novel, Rajka Radaković, a middle-aged spinster, lives in Belgrade, where she has moved after World War I from her native Sarajevo. She has lived alone with her mother since she was fifteen, when her beloved father, a well-known businessman from Sarajevo, died bankrupt and in disgrace. The story of her happy childhood and unhappy youth is told in flashbacks. An only child, withdrawn and overly serious for her age, she felt secure while her father was alive. Just before he died prematurely, he warned her to”save, save always, everywhere and in everything” and not to trust people because “all our feelings and concerns for others show our weaknesses only.” This admonition marks the beginning of an aberration in the character of little Rajka that eventually grows to monstrous proportions. She takes her father’s advice literally and from an early age begins a life of excessive thrift and self-denial bordering on obsession.
As soon as she becomes of age, Rajka takes over her father’s business and with a remarkable dexterity rebuilds the family fortune, mainly through lending money at exorbitant rates. She denies her mother and herselfall normal pleasures save for the most basic needs. She isolates herself and, little by little, turns away all family friends and most of the relatives. Her life centers exclusively on money matters, out of a pathological fear that she will suffer the same financial ruin as her father. That insecurity, coupled with some peculiar strains in her character—excessive egotism, selfishness, miserliness, insensitivity to the needs of others, and a lack of normal human drives—follows her throughout her life until she ruins everyone she associates with and, ultimately, herself.
There is only one occasion when she lets her guard down and allows herself to be sidetracked from her single-minded direction. An attractive and pleasant young man, a war hero, needs money to obtain an automobile dealership and asks Rajka for it. Because he resembles her younger uncle, whom she loved and who had died young and penniless mainly because of his irresponsibility, Rajka lends him a sizable amount of money against her better judgment. When, after patiently waiting for him to return the money, she discovers that he has been squandering it on women and the easy life, she is almost crushed, but she recovers. She is also reaffirmed in her belief that no one is to be trusted and that one must think of oneself exclusively. The most disturbing aspect of this affair is her realization that she let her emotions guide her even after so many years of conditioning herself to the opposite. This experience makes Rajka even more suspicious of everything, so much so that she develops a persecution mania. She is ultimately frightened to death when she imagines an intruder has come to rob her, and she dies of a heart attack, all alone. Her body is discovered two days later by a mailman.
The greatest merit of the novel lies in the focused portrait of the protagonist. Rajka is an archetype, the quintessential miser, in a long line of similar characters in world literature, such as Plautus’s Aulularia, Moliere’s L’Avare (1668, The Miser), and Jovan Sterija Popović’s Kir Janja (1837), with some inevitable differences. Her pathological miserliness derives from a sense of insecurity, which came about primarily from her father’s failure in business. Rajka apparently has no redeeming qualities; Andrić seems to want to soften such a harsh conclusion, however, by offering an explanation for her affliction. She desires to avenge and redeem her father, who was ruined financially and eventually died from grief because his business morality was based on trust in others and on a desire to help rather than to amass wealth. Rajka’s justification for her behavior, stemming from the experience of her father as she understood it, is rather simple: the world is basically evil, selfish, insensitive, even cruel; it kills soft and honest people like her father but is subservient before hard and unscrupulous people like herself. Therefore, she has become avaricious, insensitive, and even cruel only to protect herself from an evil world. And if she avenges her father’s untimely death in the process, it would give her an added satisfaction.
These two traits—her desire for revenge and her insecurity complex—have combined to create a monster of a human being. Still, Andrić ultimately does not leave her without some positive qualities. The need to avenge her father is an understandable human quality after all, and her insecurity is also all too human. Moreover, when the young man needs help, she for once shows understanding and compassion; yet, she is bitterly deceived, thus confirming her distrust and forcing her to shun people for the rest of her life.
Andrić approaches the theme of avarice from a purely psychological angle, as a character trait of one person only and not of a social class, race, or nationality. Rajka’s trait is not an easily recognizable stereotype, as with William Shakespeare’s Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (1600), for example. Hers is an individual aberration, and as such, is all the more convincing. It is also interesting that she is the only woman among the prototypes of a miser and the only heroine of a novel, while all the others are dramatis personae. Finally, Rajka has a few more sympathetic qualities than other archetypal misers, thus she is developed more fully as an individual.
The change of political system in Yugoslavia in 1945 presented Andrić with a problem. Even though he was always interested in politics, he was by nature reclusive and cautious, and as a diplomatic servant he was reluctant to make public his opinions and preferences. Yet, the new regime insisted that everyone who was not anticommunist should render his or her services in the rebuilding of the country after enormous destruction, so Andrić agreed. Honored and feted, he served in many public posts, even though it was against his nature. To be sure, Andrić was careful not to step over the boundaries of decency. At the same time, the regime was careful not to press him more than necessary. The relationship of mutual understanding lasted for the rest of his life.
Andrić’s short novel (treated by some critics as a novella) Prokleta avlija (1954; translated as Devil’s Yard, 1962; as Damned Yard, 1992) is one of the best of his post-World War II works. The yard, actually the Turkish prison near Istanbul, is envisioned as a microcosm. Its inhabitants, both the rulers and the ruled, represent the full scale of man’s diversity and of his problems. Amid the cruel world of the warden, Karadjoz, and his perverse notion that it is easier to release an innocent man from the prison than to hunt him, if necessary, in the dark corners of Istanbul, there lives as a prisoner a young scholar and a dreamer, ćamil, whose only crime is his “subversive” interest in an authoritarian historical figure. In the clash between the ruthless wielder of naked force and the gentle champion of pure spirit, the warden claims the head of the imprisoned scholar, but the latter emerges as moral victor. The tempting allusions to present-day politics notwithstanding, Andrić’s philosophy here tends to transcend the real and the obvious and to elevate the question of the meaning of human existence to a universal level. Fear, guilt, hatred, loneliness, indeed all evil, are conquered within the walls of human imprisonment. Though life may be accursed and walled in, its creative forces emerge as much stronger than the adversities or the adversaries.
Among Andrić’s late short stories, “Pričca o vezirovom slonu” (1947; translated as “The Vizier’s Elephant,” 1962) stands out. The sultan’s vizier is never seen in public; instead, his elephant, an animal unheard of in Bosnia save in a circus, parades every day through the town, displaying a blatant proof of the vizier’s terrifying presence. The animal is not really responsible for its various pranks among the townspeople, nor is the vizier in the town of his own will. The chain of responsibility is extended into infinity, revealing the absurdity of the entire situation. This vivid metaphor of ruthless authoritarianism also lends itself possibly to the allegory pertaining to the present.
In 1958 Andrić married Milica Babić, a widowed costume designer for the National Theatre in Belgrade with whom he had been in love for many years. The marriage lasted until her death ten years later.
Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961 had an enormous effect upon Andrić the man and the artist. As he was the only South Slav writer to receive this prestigious award, it was highly gratifying for him. The outpouring of congratulations and respect attested that he now truly belonged to world literature. He was already famous, but after the Nobel Prize he became even more useful to the regime, which enhanced its reputation by taking credit for any citizen’s success. However, as modest and withdrawn as he was for his entire life and career, he took the prize in stride. He continued to write as before, at a somewhat lesser pace, but the publication and republication of his works skyrocketed not only in his home country but also around the world. Andrić’s Nobel Prize also spurred a larger interest in all Serbian literature, and translations into other languages increased significantly. Andrić donated his prize money to several local libraries.
Andrić spent the last years of his life struggling with poor health but continuing to write. He succumbed to illness on 13 March 1975. Of all of his late works, one stands out: the novel Omer paša Latas (Omer-pasaLatas), published posthumously in 1976. It was envisioned as a concluding part of the “Bosnian trilogy,” together with Ma Drini ćuprija and Travnička hronika. It was supposed to be the story of a famous Turkish military leader of Serbian descent, who was uncommonly brave and who crushed many rebellions in the Ottoman Empire. Andrić never completed it, however, and since it was left unfinished, it is difficult to pass any definitive judgment about it. Since Andrić used his favorite method of going meticulously through historic documents to lend his work the utmost authenticity, one can only guess what Omer paša Latas would have added to the trilogy: confirmation of earlier standpoints or their revision. Knowing his attachment to his beloved Bosnia, it is possible that this novel would have been a finishing touch on a grand literary edifice.
Two other unfinished works published posthumously, Znakoviporedputa (1976, Signs by the Roadside) and Kuća na osami (1976, The Houseby Itself), are collections of short stories and meditative pieces. Although interesting in themselves, they represent only glimpses of what they could have been had they been completed.
When Andrić received the Nobel Prize, the citation praised “the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies from his country’s history.” In his banquet speech he commented that “the storyteller and his work sever no purpose unless they serve, in one way or another, man and humanity.” These words sum up Andrić’s philosophy concerning his literary output. It can be safely said that he has fulfilled his mission of a witness to the existence and history of his country, small by space and numbers, but important to Andrić withinhis artistic vision.
Letters, translated and edited by želimir B. Juričić (Toronto: Serbian Heritage Academy, 1984);
Pisma (1912-1973): Privatna pošta, edited by Miroslav Karaulac (Novi Sad: Matica srpska, 2000).
Gordana Popović, Ivo Andrić: Bibliografja deh, prevoda i literature (Belgrade: Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti, 1974);
Vasa D. Mihailovich and Mateja Matejic, A Comprehensive Bibliographyof Yugoslav Literature in English 1593-1980 (Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1984), pp. 38-41; supplements, (1988), p. 26; (1992), pp. 26-27; (1999), pp. 16-17.
Petar Džadžić, Ivo Andrić (Belgrade: Nolit, 1957); translated into English by Marija Stansfild-Popović (Belgrade: Committee for Foreign Relations of the FPR Yugoslavia, 1960);
Miroslav Karaulac, Rani Andrić (Belgrade: Prosveta/Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1980);
Radovan Popović, Ivo Andrić žwot (Belgrade: Jugoslo-venska Revija, 1989); translated by Karin Rado-vanović as Ivo Andrić—A Writer’s Life (Belgrade: Jugoslovenska Revija, 1989);
Vanita Singh Mukerji, Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography (Jefferson, N.C. & London: McFarland, 1990).
Miloš I. Bandić, Ivo Andrić: Zagonetka vedrine (Novi Sad: Maticasrpska, 1963);
Gun Bergman, Turkisms in Ivo Andrić’s Ma Drini ćuprija’ Examined from the Points of View of Literary Style (Uppsala: Almquist & Wiksells, 1969);
Thomas Butler, “Reflections of Ottoman Rule in the Works of Petar Kočić, Ivo Andrić and Meša Seli-mović,” Serbian Studies, 11 (1997): 66-75;
Mary P. Coote, “Narrative and Narrative Structure in Ivo Andrić’s Devil’s Yard,” Slavic and East European Journal, 21 (Spring 1977): 56-63;
Jovan Deretić, “Tematška središta u strukturi Andrićeve pripovetke,” Književna istorija, 5 (1972): 208-233;
Vojislav Djurić, ed., Ivo Andrić (Belgrade: Institut za teoriju književnosti i umetnosti, 1962);
Thomas Eekman, “The Later Stories of Ivo Andrić,” Slavonic and East European Review, 48 (July 1970): 341-356;
Alan Ferguson, “Public and Private Worlds in Travnik Chronicle” Modern Language Review, 70 (October 1975): 830-838;
E. D. Goy, “The Work of Ivo Andrić,” Slavonic and East European Preview, 41 (June 1963): 301-326;
Celia Hawkesworth, Ivo Andrić: Bridge between East and West (London: Athlone Press, 1984);
Hawkesworth, “Ivo Andrić’s Unobtrusive Narrative Technique with Special Reference to Kuća na osami,” Annali dell’ Istituto Orientale di Napoli, 20, no. 1 (1979): 131-153;
Želimir B. Juričić, The Man and the Artist: Essays on Ivo Andrić(Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1986);
Ante Kadić, “The French in The Chronicle of Travnik,” California Slavic Studies, 1 (1960): 134-169;
J. Kragalott, “Turkish Loanwords as an Element of Ivo Andrić’s Literary Style in Na Drini ćuprija,” Bal-kanistica, 2 (1975): 65-82;
Albert Lord, “Ivo Andrić in English Translation,” American Slavic and East European Review, 23 (September 1964): 563-573;
John Loud, “Between Two Worlds: Andrićc the Storyteller,” Review of National Literatures, 5, no. 1 (1974): 112-126;
Loud, “Zanos in the Early Stories of Ivo Andrićc,” dissertation, Harvard University, 1971;
Claudio Marabini, “La Narrativa di Ivo Andrić, ć Nuova antologia di lettere, artie scienze, 499 (1967): 474-490;
Vasa D. Mihailovich, “The Basic World View in the Short Stories of Ivo Andrić, Slavic and East European Journal, 10 (Summer 1966): 173-177;
Mihailovich, “The Reception of the Works of Ivo Andrić in the English-Speaking World,” Southeastern Europe, 9 (1982): 41-52;
Regina Minde, Ivo Andrić. Studien ueber seine Erzaehlkunst (Munich: Otto Sagner, 1962);
Dragan Nedeljković, ed., Delo Ive Andrića u kontekstu evropske knjiŹevnosti i kulture (Belgrade: Zaduž bina I’veAndrića, 1981);
Predrag Palavestra, Knjiga o Andriću (Belgrade: BIGZ & SKZ, 1992);
Lorna Mintz Peterson, “The Development of Narrative Technique in Ivo Andrić,” dissertation, Yale University, 1973;
Njegoš M. Petrović, Ivo Andrić, L’homme et l’oeuvre (Ottawa: Les Editions Lemeac, 1969);
Branko Popović, “Istorija i poezija u Andrićevom delu,” Književna istorija, 5 (1972): 193-207;
Felicity Rosslyn, “The Short Stories of Ivo Andrić: Autobiographyand the Chain of Proof,” Slavonic and East European Review, 67 (January 1989): 29-41;
Isidora Sekulić, “Istok u pripovetkama Iva Andrića,” Srpski knjizževni glasnik, 10 (1923): 502-511;
Dragoljub Stojadinvić, Romani Iva Andrića (Priština: Jedinstvo, 1970);
Vida Taranovskijohnson, “Bosnia Demythologized: Character and Motivation in Ivo Andrić’s Stories ‘Mara Milosnica’ and ’O starim i mladim Pamu-kovićima,’” Die Welt der Slaven, 25 (1981): 98-108;
Taranovski-johnson, “Ivo Andrić’s Kuća na osami: Memories and Ghosts of the Writer’s Past,” in Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Eekman (Columbus, Ohio: Slavica, 1980), pp. 239-250;
Wayne S. Vucinich, ed., Ivo Andrićc Revisited: The Bridge Still Stands (Berkeley, Cal.: International and Area Studies Publications, 1995);
Radovan Vučković, Velika sinteza (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1974);
Jan Wierzbicki, Ivo Andrić (Warsaw: Wiedza Pows-zechna, 1965).
Ivo Andrić’s manuscripts and correspondence are housed at the Serbian Academy of Science and Art and at the Documentation Center of the Ivo Andrić Foundation in Belgrade, Serbia. His apartment in Belgrade is now a memorial museum.