Andrić, Ivo

views updated May 29 2018

Ivo Andrić

Ivo Andrić (1892–1975) was a great writer of the twentieth century. His work reflected the historical turmoil of his Yugoslav homeland and emphasized the humanity of the people caught in the political unrest. Andrić began his public career as a diplomat and by the time he retired from the Yugoslav diplomatic service he was already a well-respected author. In the years following the Second World War, Andrić published his masterpiece and his reputation spread throughout the world. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962.

From Prison to the Foreign Ministry

Ivo Andrić was born to Croatian parents on October 10, 1892, in the Bosnian village of Dolac, near the town of Travnik, at a time when Bosnia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Andrić's father, a silversmith, died when Andrić was three years old. Andrić then went to live with his aunt and uncle in the town of Višegrad, the town that he associated the most with his childhood. In 1903 Andrić moved to Sarajevo where he attended the Great Sarajevo Gymnasium for eight years. In 1911 Andrić published his first poem, "U sumrak." In 1912 he received a scholarship from the cultural-educational society Napredak to attend the University of Zagreb, where his course load was heavy in science. In 1913, when he transferred to the University of Vienna, his academic interest shifted from science to the humanities. In 1914, Andrić entered the University of Kraków; that same year the Croatian Writers Society published six of Andrić's prose poems in their anthology, Hrvatska mlada lirika (Young Croatian Lyricists). Prior to attending university, Andrić had become involved with one of the many Bosnian underground resistance groups whose secondary goal was to unify Serbs and Croats. One of the members of Andrić's group, "Mlada Bosna" (Young Bosnia), was Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914—an action that triggered a chain of events that led to the outbreak of the First World War.

Andrić returned to Yugoslavia from Kraków after the assassination, but because of his underground political activities he was imprisoned for three years during the First World War. He spent his prison years reading Fedor Dostoevsky and Søren Kierkegaard. Upon his release he worked as an editor at the literary journal Književni Jug (The Literary South). In 1918 Andrić reregistered at the University of Zagreb where he completed the coursework but withdrew before the exams because of ill health. Andrić had planned to complete the exams as soon as he recovered but was diverted from this plan because of his family's dire financial circumstances. Consequently, he wrote a letter to a former teacher who had become a cabinet minister in the postwar Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, applying for a government position. In September 1919 Andrić became a junior minister in the ministry of faith and moved to Belgrade. Andrić remained at the ministry of faith until February 1920 when he transferred to the ministry of foreign affairs. Andrić's first foreign posting was to the Vatican in Rome, Italy, as a vice-consul.

By 1923 Andrić was in Graz, Austria, again serving as vice-consul. However, a new law was declared that required all civil service personnel serving in positions of responsibility to hold university degrees. Due to Andrić's recognized diplomatic ability his immediate superiors tried to have an exception made for him but to no avail. However, he was retained at the consulate as a temporary worker (at his old salary) during the time he resumed his studies for a doctorate at the University of Graz. Andrić received his Ph.D. in 1924; his dissertation was titled, "Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkung dur Türkischen Herrschaft" (The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia Under the Influence of Turkish Rule). With a degree in hand, Andrić was soon reinstated as a vice-consul. Over the course of his diplomatic career Andrić served in Rome, Italy; Graz, Austria; Bucharest, Romania; Madrid, Spain; Geneva, Switzerland; Brussels, Belgium; and Trieste, Italy. His diplomatic service culminated in Berlin, Germany.

In 1939, with a change in government in Yugoslavia (as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes officially became known in 1929), there was a vacancy in Berlin for the post of royal Yugoslav minister or ambassador when the previous minister, Aleksander Cincar-Marković, became the foreign minister. Cincar-Marković's appointment was an attempt to mollify the Nazi regime in Germany, which was pushing for Yugoslavia's alliance with the Axis (principally Germany, Italy, and Japan). Andrić was clearly the most qualified candidate for the post, and so it was that he presented his credentials to Adolf Hitler (as called for by diplomatic protocol) on April 19, 1939. Andrić served as ambassador to Germany for just under two years; he resigned his post on April 5, 1941, after Yugoslavia had signed the Tripartite Pact, aligning that country with the Axis, and just hours before Germany sent troops into Yugoslavia. Andrić returned to Belgrade were he spent the entire war. He resigned from the foreign ministry on November 15, 1941, and never resumed his diplomatic career.

Early Work

Throughout Andrić's diplomatic career, he continued to write and his literary reputation in Yugoslavia was formidable at the time of his retirement from diplomatic service. In addition to his earlier published prose poems, Andrić translated works by Walt Whitman and August Strindberg. In the years just after the First World War, Andrić published Ex Ponto (From the Bridge) in 1918 and Nemiri (Troubles) in 1920, both collections of prose poems. He wrote part of Ex Ponto while in prison. Thereafter Andrić concentrated on prose, in the beginning short stories, and by the end of the 1920s he no longer wrote poetry. Andrić's first short story was "Put Alije Djerzeleza" (The Journey of Ali Djerzelez), written in 1920. The protagonist is a mythic Muslim hero in the modern world. In the 1920s and 1930s Andrić's literary reputation rested on three powerful collections of short stories; each collection was simply titled Pripovetke. Originally appearing in newspapers and journals, these stories included: "Mustafa Madjar" (Mustafa Magyar), "Lyubav u kasbi" (Love in a Small Town), "U musafirhani" (In the Guest House), "Mara milosnica" (The Pasha's Concubine), "Cudo u Olovu" (Miracle I Olovo), and "Most na Žepi" (The Bridge on the Zepa). The last two stories were written in 1926, the year Andrić became an associate member of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art. In 1930 he published "Anikina vremena."

Andrić's work as a diplomat and his brief time in "Mlada Bosna" undoubtedly influenced his outlook regarding his fellow southern Slavs. Andrić was committed to the idea of Yugoslavia. In 1933 he refused publication in the anthology Antologija novije hrvatske lirike (Anthology of New Croatian Writers) because of its underlying philosophy of separation. In 1934 he became editor of the Serbian Literary Gazette. By the end of the 1930s, Andrić's literary reputation in his country was such that he was the subject of a monograph.

Postwar Masterpieces

During the war years, Andrić wrote some of his finest works including his masterpiece Na Drini Cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), but it was not until 1945 that he published these novels. Returning to the settings of his youth, albeit in a historical period, Andrić placed Travnicka Chronika (Bosnian Chronicle, also titled in English as The Days of the Consuls) in Travnik, the town of his birth during the years 1806–1813. The bridge in Na Drini Cuprija is an actual landmark in Višegrad. Both novels were published in Belgrade. Andrić also published a psychological novel, Gospodjica (The Woman from Sarajevo), in Sarajevo, in 1945.

Na Drini Cuprija gained Andrić worldwide attention that culminated in his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. It tells the story of four centuries of Bosnian history, from 1516 to the onset of the First World War. Andrić's narrative power within the novel created something far richer than a metaphor for the connection of separate generations and religious beliefs. The bridge, in Na Drini Cuprija, is nothing less than the novel's protagonist, an inanimate, lifeless, and therefore static object that nevertheless carries hope and change. Andrić returned to the image of the bridge more than once. He later wrote an essay titled "Bridges" in which he declared: "Of all that a man is impelled to build in this life, nothing is in my eyes finer than a bridge.… Belonging to everyone and the same for everyone, useful, built always rationally, in a place in which the greatest number of human needs coincide, they are more enduring than other buildings and serve nothing which is secret or evil."

In 1948 Andrić published Nove Pripovetke (New Stories). While the stories in this collection had contemporary settings, Andrić returned to an historical setting with the 1954 publication of Prokleta Avlija (The Devil's Yard). A collection of intertwined short stories set primarily in a Turkish prison.

The Nobel Prize

Andrić was very active in the postwar years. He served as president of the Yugoslav Writers Association and as vice-president of the Society for Cultural Cooperation with the Soviet Union. He also attended the third meeting of the Antifascist Liberation Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1946 he became a full member of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art and in 1947 was a member of the Presidium of the People's Assembly of NR Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also that year, he published the novella Prica o vezirovom slonu (The Story of the Vizier's Elephant). Andrić also traveled extensively. In 1949 he served in the Yugoslav Federal Assembly. Andrić joined the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1954 and was the first signer of the Novi Sad Agreement concerning the Serbo-Croatian language. He was also instrumental in maintaining Yugoslavia's cultural independence (as it had its political independence) from the Soviet Union. Thus, socialist realism was never a major literary or artistic force in Yugoslavia. In 1958 Andrić married costume designer Milica Babić; she died in 1968.

Andrić earned numerous awards and honors, but the high point of his international recognition came when he was awarded (in 1962) the 1961 Nobel Prize for Literature. Following this award, Andrić's international reputation grew enormously. For his part, the now 70-year-old donated all of his prize money to the library fund in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1963, his first Collected Works published in 10 volumes, and in 1964, the University of Jagiellonian in Kraków awarded Andrić an honorary doctorate degree. In the 1960s and 1970s his literary output slowed as his health deteriorated, especially after the death of his wife. Ivo Andrić died in Belgrade on March 13, 1975.

In addition to his short stories and novels, Andrić published several essays on writers and artists. Andrić especially admired Goya and in 1935 published the essay "Razgovor s Gojom" (Conversation with Goya). Also in 1935, he published one of his most important piece of literary criticism: "Njegoš kao tragnǐni junak kosovske misli" (Njegoš as Tragic hero of the Kosovo Idea). Andrić's last four books were published posthumously. They include: the short-story collection Kuća no osami (The House on Its Own) and the novel Omerpaša Latas (Omer Pasha, Latas), both published in 1976. The other two books were Znakovi pored puta (Signs by the Roadside) and Sveske (Notebooks). In conjunction with the revival of Andrić's work, which occurred after his death, a number of his stories including "Anikina vremena," were made into films during the 1980s and 1990s for theatrical distribution and television in Yugoslavia.


Andrić, Ivo, The Bridge on the Drina translated by Lovett F. Edwards, Signet Books, 1960.

—, Conversation with Goya/Bridges/Signs by the Roadside, translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Andre Harvey, The Menard Press, 1992.

—, Devil's Yard, translated by Kenneth Johnstone, Grove Press, 1962.

JuričIć, Želimir B., The Man and the Artist: Essays on Ivo Andrić, University Press of America, 1986.


"Biography of Ivo Andrić," http://www.ivoAndrić.org.yu/html/body_biography.html (January 5, 2004).

"Ivo Andrić (1892–1975),"ć.htm (January 5, 2004).

"Ivo Andrić—Biography," Nobel e-Museum, (January 4, 2004).