Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

There are several themes in Bosnian Chronicle, but the main one is the contrast between the West and the East. The comparatively enlightened world of the West, represented by the consuls of France and Austria, is counterposed by the backward, mysterious, dark world of the East as it exists in the Turkish Empire. Even though the opposing sides are not in an open conflict, the behavior of the players involved points to a tacit rivalry that is just as intense. The distrust with which the Westerners are met, not only by the Turkish officials but also by the people on the street, can only be explained by a deep-seated enmity. The antagonism goes beyond the political and national differences; it goes to the core of the way of life and the attitudes of the two worlds. Philosophical fatalism, resignation, deep mistrust of everything foreign, basic disregard for the rights of individuals—considered normal among the people of the East and the Turkish Empire—are pitted against the more open, compassionate, rational, and law-oriented ways of the West. Ivo Andri presents this drama not so much by musings and discussions about history as through the interplay of people who are forced into situations beyond anything they have experienced before, thus adding a special dimension to the novel.

That this novel is not simply a historical chronicle but primarily a story of the people caught in the maelstrom of history is further demonstrated by the fine...

(The entire section is 517 words.)