Bosnian Chronicle Essay - Critical Essays

Ivo Andrić

Critical Context

Bosnian Chronicle was the first of three novels—along with Na Drini cuprija (1945; The Bridge on the Drina, 1959) and Gospodjica (1945; The Woman from Sarajevo, 1965)—Andri wrote in Belgrade during the German Occupation of World War II. Together with the other two novels, it represents the culminating point in his career, winning for him the Nobel Prize in 1961. After years of writing short stories, he turned to novels, only to abandon this genre once again after the publication of these novels. Some critics consider Prokleta avlija (1954; Devil’s Yard, 1962) a short novel, but it is actually a long story or a novella.

According to some critics, Bosnian Chronicle is a better novel than The Bridge on the Drina. It is certainly more of a true novel, preserving the unity of time, place, and plot. Yet the two novels should be considered organic pieces of a whole that, together with the unfinished novel Omerpasa Latas (1976; Omer Pasha Latas), constitute the true Bosnian trilogy.

Like many other works, this novel serves Andri in part as a vehicle for his own thoughts and ideas about life and history. Furthermore, just as the bridge in The Bridge on the Drina is the symbol of bridging the differences between worlds, Travnik is a symbol of a kasaba (provincial little town) in the backwaters of an empire, where little is happening yet people continue to strive against all odds. Thus, even though the picture Andri presents is often bleak and melancholy, life pulsates beneath the surface with full vigor. His skillful depiction of this multifaceted life made Andri a leading figure in modern world literature. His mastery of the psychology of his characters against the backdrop of events over which they have little control reached its highest peak in Bosnian Chronicle.