The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

bridge over the drina


The bridge over the Drina by Ivo Andric

Bosnian fiction

Original title – Na Drini ćuprija

Translator – Lovett F Edwards

Source – personnel copy

This table has four sturdy legs
And a heart of very near wild oak
When others would have screamed out loud my friend
This one never even spoke

I’ve been sat upon, I’ve been spat upon
I’ve been treated like a bed
Been carried like a stretcher,
when someone thinks they’re dead
I’ve been dined upon, I’ve been wined upon
I’ve been taken for a fool
Taken for a desk,
when they should have been at school

The table in the song by beautiful south is a dumb witness of history source 

Well this has been a book I have want to add to the blog for a while . Part of what I need to do is add books like this and writers like Andric .Former Nobel winner .He was born to Bosnian Croat parents ,was rought up in the town of Visegrad where this book is set and the bridge is .He won the nobel mainly based on the value of this book it was the first of a trilogy of books he wrote set in his native Bosnia .

For the greater part of its course the river Drina flows through narrow gorges between steep mountains  or through deep ravines with precipitous banks  . In a few places only the river banks spread out to form valleys with level or rolling stretches of fertile land suitable for cultivation and settlement on both sides . Such a place exists here at Visegrad , where the Drina breaks out in a sudden curve .

The town has people living on both sides of the bridge .

The bridge of Drina is well what it says on the tin the story of this bridge that in a way links east and west . The bridge is set in the town of Visegrad . The bridge was built-in the 16th century by the Grand Vizar to connect the two sides of the town and two worlds really . Through the book we see families torn apart on the two sides of the river . The story starts with a Serbian boy  whom has been  taken from his parents  .The parents of the boys taken suffering . Through the door of everyone living in the town we see the small world there but also the larger world of the Balkans .WE see the religions of the region and how they affect the townsfolk Catholic , orthodox and muslim altogether .This is a huge book about the region through glimpse of the world through three centuries .

In all that ten days long bombardment no major damage was done to the bridge .The shell struck against the smooth piers and rounded arches ,ricocheted and exploded in the air without leaving other marks in the stone than light ,white scarcely perceptible scratches . The fragments of shrapnel bounced off the smooth firm stone .

The bridge came through world war one fairly unscathed .unlike the world around it

Now this book was written in Belgrade during the second world war .It maybe shows much of what happened after the second world war . The cracks that finally broke up the post Tito Yugoslavia can all be seen in these little stories in this book as we see the lives through 300 years which has seen many people trying to gain control of the town and over Bosnia and the wider region . from the Ottoman empire .then the interaction between the Serbs and the Muslims .Andric enters all the lives of the town he grew up these are little stories glimpse of people’s lives that he knew and must have heard of growing up in the town .Also the  folktales of the place all drawn together .The bridge is like a dumb witness to the history and the wounds left during the three hundred years in this book .Which formed scabs after this book that was maybe ripped off to bleed again by the Balkan conflicts at the end of the 20th Century .This is my second book for east European month and maybe one of the best and earliest books of the post war eastern europe .

Have you read this book ?

28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. roughghosts
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:10:10

    I received a copy of this book in the mail just before the IFFP announcement. I am keen to read some of the writers who inspired the contemporary Balkan writers we read. I won’t get to it for a while but I am looking forward to it. Thanks for this review!


  2. MarinaSofia
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:30:08

    This is such a classic book and yes, so influential. I read it a very long time ago (before the war in Yugoslavia), so it became more significant in retrospect.


  3. Jonathan
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:30:13

    This is one of my favourite books and I’m re-reading it at the moment – hopefully a review will appear soon. I initially read it in the early ’90s whilst the break of Yugoslavia was still happening and I found this book was very useful for me in understanding what was happening in Bosnia at the time. And that impaling scene has stayed with me since then….ouch!


    • winstonsdad
      Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:31:07

      Yes it is uncanny how much of what happened is here in this book the undercurrents


      • Jonathan
        Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:42:12

        I really like the idea of structuring the book around a bridge and just allowing characters to pop in and out. What at first appears to be a restriction for the writer actually allows them scope to do anything.

        Have you read anything else by Andrić? I’ve also read The Days of the Consuls (Travnička hronika) but wasn’t too impressed. I wonder what I’d make of it now?

      • winstonsdad
        Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:46:39

        No but fancied other two if it is a trilogy but not sure what is in print

  4. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 17:31:59

    I haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my wishlist!


  5. heavenali
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 18:22:14

    Love the sound of this book, not one I would have heard of without you 🙂


  6. farmlanebooks
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 18:37:56

    As you know I bought a copy of this after our twitter conversation. I’m looking forward to reading it sometime soon.


  7. Richard
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 20:48:04

    This is one that I hope to get to someday, Stu, so I’m glad to hear you affirm that you think it’s one of the best of its time and place. Hope you’re feeling better these days.


  8. 1streading
    Mar 21, 2015 @ 21:04:27

    This is a book I’ve long meant to read – thanks for the reminder. Sorry to be not participating in East European month with all the IFFP reading.


  9. Anokatony
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 01:24:06

    I read it a decade or two ago. It is an excellent novel.


  10. Caroline
    Mar 22, 2015 @ 14:03:05

    I’ve bought it not to long ago. Glad to hear you liked it.


  11. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 25, 2015 @ 10:06:33

    I have this but haven’t read it yet. You do make a good case for it. I’m pretty put off though by it being the first of a trilogy where the others are unavailable. That seems bizarre, though translations of series/trilogies are often woefully inconsistent.


  12. Max Cairnduff
    Mar 25, 2015 @ 10:17:58

    Thanks Stu, guess that explains the lack of translation of the others then if this is his masterwork as it were.


  13. Mytwostotinki
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 08:41:26

    Without doubt a great and important book. It’s just that the impaling scene is so long and so graphic, it almost put me off the novel. Andric is btw in the center of a rather heated discussion in Bosnia and Serbia. Serb chauvinists and ultra-nationalists (Emir “Nemanja” Kusturica et al.) try to co-opt Andric as one of them posthumously and built even a kind of Disneyland (“Andricgrad”) in his hometown to present their distorted version of Balkan history. But that’s of course not Andric’s fault.


  14. Mytwostotinki
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 08:45:19

    I forgot: the belief that something living has to be sacrificed when a new bridge is built is traditionally widespread in the Balkans. You can find the same element for example in Ismail Kadare’s Bridge with the Three Archs and in some Bulgarian novels. It would be very interesting to compare how the different authors treat this subject.


  15. Kinna
    Apr 11, 2015 @ 17:30:18

    I’m delighted that you reviewed The Bridge over the Drina as It’s one of my favorite reads from Eastern Europe. The story is wonderful plus it does a good job with the historical social context of that part of the works. Thanks, Stu!


  16. Trackback: Winstonsdad’s Books of the year | Winstonsdad's Blog

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March 2015


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