Andric was born in Bosnia, in the village of Dolac, near Travnik. His mother was too poor to support him so he was raised by her family in the town of Višegrad, on the river Drina in eastern Bosnia, where he saw the 16th-century Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge, later made famous in his novel “The Bridge on the Drina” (Na Drini ćuprija).
He spent his youth in Bosnia (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time) and then went to study philosophy at the Universities of Zagreb, Vienna, and Cracow. His studies were cut short by the outbreak of the WWI. He was jailed for his anti-Austrian activities at the beginning. After receiving a doctorate in letters from the University of Graz in 1923, he entered the Yugoslav diplomatic service. The last diplomatic post he held was that of Yugoslav minister in Berlin. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Andric returned to Belgrade and lived there in seclusion throughout the WWII.
Andric started his literary career as a poet. In 1914 he was one of the contributors to Hrvatska Mlada Lirika (Young Croatian Lyrics). He published two books of lyrical prose – one of them entitled Nemiri (Anxieties), 1919 – which was written in the form of a diary, reflect Andric’s experiences of the war and his imprisonment. For a long period afterwards, Andric concentrated on the writing of short stories. His first novel, Put Alije Djerzeleza (The Journey of Alija Djerzelez), published in 1920, manifests a dominant trait of his creative process. He takes his material from the life of Bosnia but presents it as a universal human problem. Between the two world wars, Andric published three books of short stories under the same title, Pripovetke (Stories), 1924, 1931 and 1936.
During the WWII, in the leisure imposed on him by the circumstances, Andric wrote his three large works, all of which were published in 1945: Na Drini Cuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), Travnicka Hronika (Bosnian Story/The Chronicles of Travnik), and Gospodjica (The Woman from Sarajevo).
The first two are rather chronicles than novels about Bosnian history, folklore and culture, like most of his work. The author describes the life of this region in which East and West have for centuries clashed with their interests and influences, a region whose population is composed of different nationalities and religions. Andric is at his best when he limits himself to his native Bosnia and her people.
In Gospodjica (The Woman from Sarajevo) and Nove pripovetke (New Stories), 1948, Andric presented present-day people and problems, the psychology of the wealthy, the war and postwar periods, and the formation of a new society. But in Prokleta avlija (The Damned Yard), 1954, Andric returned to his favorite milieu and described the experiences of a Bosnian Franciscan, Fra Peter, who is put in an Istanbul jail, being wrongly accused of plotting against Ottoman rule. In 1960 Andric published another collection of stories, Lica (Faces). He has also written several essays, prominent among which is Zapisi o Goji, (Notes on Goya), 1961.
Ivo Andric was one of the famous writers in the world and a distinguished diplomat. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. He died on March 13, 1975.
“The Bridge on the Drina” summary:
Some have compared it to “One Hundred Years of Solitude” for its similarity to that masterpiece, but broader in scope. Those of you who want to look into the labyrinth of Balkan history will find this book very useful. This is a book about social changes in this region. It pivots upon the contrast between the small parochial existence of the quiet Bosnian town where the bridge is the central and everlasting feature versus the wider world of Balkan politics where Ottoman Turkey, Orthodox Serbia, and Catholic Austria-Hungary wage a centuries-long battle for political domination.
The book is filled with memorable characters, soldiers, lovers, saloon-keepers, priests, and town leaders. There is the 19th-century schoolmaster who keeps a small notebook of historical events but fails to record them. These events are deemed unimportant in the village until they come, like a flood.
The true symbols in the book are the rich and detailed characters. Each of them has something to tell us and none is superfluous. They describe the consequences of conflict and cooperation in a comfortable little town caught in uncomprehending suffering because of its location along one of history’s great fault lines. The bridge is interpreted as the symbol for the Ottoman Empire, that resist any changes, despite the ponderous events of the outside world.
The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge has survived the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression on Bosnia so it’s still there, resisting the changes around it, as beautiful as ever…
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Note: This work of art shouldn’t be taken as a historical fact but rather as just one way to understand the people and events that took place in that region.
As a native speaker of Bosnian language, I have to say that some of these titles below are translated rather “freely” in my opinion. My goal is to just simply expose some of these works that have been a hidden treasure until now, to the outside world.
Suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
Links to some of his works:
The Bridge on the Drina
Na Drini Cuprija – free download in Bosnian only):
Bosnian Chronicle (a.k.a. Chronicles of Travnik)
The Woman from Sarajevo (Gospodjica) – free download
Ex Ponto (1918) Free audio download
Unrest (Nemiri, 1920)
The Journey of Alija Djerdjelez (Put Alije Đerzeleza, 1920)
The Vizier’s Elephant Story (Priča o vezirovom slonu, 1948; trans. 1962)
The Damned Yard (Prokleta avlija, 1954)
Jelena Zena Koje Nema
Omer-Pasha Latas (Omerpaša Latas, released posthumously in 1977)