Bosnian Chronicle

Ivo Andric

translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth
Harvill Press 1996 [1945]
A book review by Danny Yee © 1996
Between 1807 and 1814 France maintained a consulate in the Bosnian town of Travnik. Bosnian Chronicle is the story of that consulate. Although set against the background of Napoleon's victories and defeats and the Serbian revolt against Turkey, it is similar to The Bridge on the Drina in its narrow, almost claustrophobic focus on a single town. It is in many ways more accessible, however, with its greater length and less ambitious temporal sweep allowing for more character development and a varied mix of love affairs, political intrigues, and popular disturbances.

Bosnian Chronicle contains a memorable assortment of characters. At the centre is the French consul Daville, lost and unsure of himself but struggling on gamely. Around him circle a host of others — his family and assistants, rival Austrian consuls and their followers, successive Turkish Viziers and their entourages (almost as out of place in Bosnia as the Western diplomats), and the local people, a mix of Sephardic Jews, Bosnian beys, and Christian (Orthodox and Catholic) clergy and peasants. Some of AndriƧ's characters are so eccentric they would defy belief did they not fit so well into their environment.

It is its feel for Travnik, however, for the cycle of its seasons and the shifting moods of its people, which really makes Bosnian Chronicle a success. This is historical fiction at its best, though readers seeking high drama and heroic protagonists may be disappointed.

June 1996

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%T Bosnian Chronicle
%A Andric, Ivo
%M Serbo-Croatian
%F Hawkesworth, Celia
%I Harvill Press
%D 1996 [1945]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1860461212
%P 435pp