The Bridge on the Drina

Ivo Andric

translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Lovett F. Edwards
The University of Chicago Press 1977 [1945]
A book review by Danny Yee © 1995
In the second half of the 16th century a Turkish Grand Vizir had a bridge built over the river Drina at Vishegrad, in what is now eastern Bosnia; in 1914, during the First World War, it was destroyed by the retreating Austrians. The Bridge on the Drina is a novel — or more accurately, perhaps, a cross between a novel and a series of short stories — woven around the unifying subject of that bridge. While much is made of the contrast between the enduring stone of the bridge and the ephemeral lives of the people who lived by it, what AndriƧ offers is something more unusual — insight into both the continuities and the changes in human culture over a span of centuries.

Written after the last round of blood-letting in the Balkans, The Bridge on the Drina may attract those wanting some background to the current events in Bosnia. Indeed it gives a much better feel for the history of relationships between Christians and Muslims in the area than any account of battles, treaties and dates is likely to do. But you don't have to have an interest in history to appreciate it; like the bridge itself, The Bridge on the Drina is beautiful as well as useful, with a power belied by its elegant simplicity. The judges who awarded Ivo AndriƧ the Nobel prize for literature in 1961 knew what they were doing, and The Bridge on the Drina is the most impressive work of fiction I have read this year.

November 1995

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%T The Bridge on the Drina
%A Andric, Ivo
%M Serbo-Croatian
%F Edwards, Lovett F.
%I The University of Chicago Press
%D 1977 [1945]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0226020452
%P 314pp