“The Bridge on the Drina ” by Ivo Andrić

This article is also available in: Italiano

“The bridge on the Drina” is for detachment one of the most beautiful, rich and interesting books about Bosnia and in general the former Yugoslavia, a masterpiece by Ivo Andrić, essential to really discover these places

The bridge on the Drina

At the confluence of the Christian and Muslim worlds, Višegrad rises in Bosnia, which has always been a meeting place between different races, religions and cultures. And it is here that in the sixteenth century the vizier Mehmed-pasha had a bridge built, which became a symbol of oppression because it was built thanks to the effort and sacrifices of many Christians, but also a testimony of the fusion of two different worlds. The bridge is the center of Andrić’s novel: a large fresco that goes from the sixteenth century to the First World War and which has as its background a romantic Bosnia, with its complex historical events but also with the daily dramas of the men who live there. Andrić confirms himself as the interpreter and moved singer of this tormented land.

The history of Bosnia according to a bridge

Ivo Andrić’s novel is a timeless masterpiece, able to tell the story of an entire country through the events that occur on the Sokolovic bridge in Visegrad, an element that we are accustomed to conceiving as inanimate, but which thanks to the great Yugoslav master it acquires a life of its own, so much so that it becomes the true protagonist of the work. This work was strongly desired by Mehmed-paša Sokolović, a young local who was recruited by the Ottomans through the devşirme and who, once he became grand vizier, wanted to honor his city by building at his own expense the bridge where a ferry once stood. The enterprise, however, was by no means easy and clashed with innumerable local resistances, which for a long time saw the Turks as the absolute enemy.

The Bridge on the Drina
The Mehmed Pasha Sokolović bridge

Once completed, the bridge will become the city wonder, so much so that any inhabitant of Višegrad will begin to spend their days and the most important moments of life there, transforming it into a place different from any other, the only one able to really tell the story. spirit of the premises. His dependence on the Ottoman coffers, however, will mean that, with the slow decay of the Sublime Porte, even the bridge and the attached caravanserai will begin to go into disrepair. With the passage of Bosnia to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there will then be the first political and social upheavals, with the inhabitants who will suddenly find themselves having to change their vision of the world. This will cause various inconveniences and, perhaps even more important for Ivo Andrić, the birth of the first national movements for the liberation of Yugoslavia. Under Vienna the Slavs will in fact experience a very rapid literacy, which will lead them in a short time to understand the historical problems of their country and to desire a free and independent future, characteristics which, however, did not marry with the wishes of the new rulers. The book ends with some of the most turbulent moments of the First World War, during which the bridge itself was the scene of clashes and a victim of bombing.

Yugoslav masterpiece

The book is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, suitable and recommended on the former Yugoslavia and its inhabitants. I say “Yugoslavia” and not necessarily Bosnia because, despite being the country of history, Višegrad is represented as a “bridge city” between the various local souls. In fact, we will have more and more opportunities to come across Serbs, Turks, Croats, Austrians, Gypsies, Italians and many other peoples who are located here and have taken root, giving life to a unique melting pot that is difficult to replicate anywhere else in the world. Andrić himself, despite being born and raised in Bosnia, was Croatian and then worked for a long time between Belgrade, Sarajevo and Zagreb, so much so that he was qualified as one of the greatest writers of all time by all the former Yugoslavs.

The Bridge on the Drina
Ivo Andrić

This “wanting to give a voice to everyone” is one of the greatest and most interesting characteristics of the author and in this book it can be seen in all its power. In fact, the novel does not focus on a similar character but on an entire city, giving Andrić the opportunity to build a choral novel, in which all the stories narrated are transformed into pieces of a mosaic that tells the story of the whole country. Each category is represented here, so that “The bridge on the Drina” can be considered a complete work and able to represent not only a particular ethnic group, but the entire history of Yugoslavia, a country that Andrić helped to shape. From this point of view, the Sokolović bridge is without a shadow of a doubt the most suitable element to symbolize this closeness, also and above all for its unique history. “The Bridge on the Drina ” is a truly essential reading for every lover of the Balkans and their culture, a novel that, through this beautiful Bosnian city, will open the doors to a unique world capable of surprising for its complexity, grace and stories. .

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