Andrić, Ivo (Short Story Criticism)
Ivo Andrić 1892-1975
Bosnian short story writer, novelist, poet, and essayist.
Ivo Andrić, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961, is considered the most important Yugoslavian writer of the twentieth century. While he produced critically acclaimed work in several genres, scholars have argued that Andrić was essentially a short story writer. He produced about one hundred stories and sketches over the course of his writing career. Andrić's most popular tales, set in his native Bosnia, explore the tragic nature of the human condition.
Andrić was born in Trávnik, Bosnia, on October 9, 1892. When his father died of tuberculosis in 1894, his family moved to Višegrad, a small town with a well-known bridge that spanned the river Drina; bridges would become a recurrent symbol in his later fiction. Andrić enrolled in the University of Zagreb in 1912, only to transfer to the University of Vienna the following year. It was there that he became involved in the burgeoning Bosnian nationalist movement. He transferred again shortly thereafter, this time to the University of Krakow. In 1914 Andrić published several reviews and poems in local periodicals. He was elected president of the Young Bosnia Movement, a group advocating intellectual and spiritual rebirth as well as political revolution. After the group was implicated in the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, Andrić was arrested and imprisoned for three years. The case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence and he was released.
After his release in 1917, Andrić returned to Zagreb. He entered the diplomatic service in 1920, and throughout his career was posted in several European cities. His first story, "Put Alije Djerzeleza" ("The Journey of Alija Djerzelez"), was published in 1920 and his first collection, Pripovetke, garnered critical and popular acclaim when it appeared in 1924. In 1938 Andrić was posted in Berlin, and was severely disappointed when Yugoslavia signed the tripartite pact, which pledged support to Italy and Germany. On March 1941 he resigned from his professional duties. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia ten days later, Andrić fled to Belgrade, where he lived in self-isolation for the next three years. With the end of the war and the successful Communist revolution in Yugoslavia, Andrić once again participated in the political and intellectual activities of his homeland. He died on March 13, 1975, after a long illness.
Andrić's early stories, which are set in Bosnia between the two world wars, focus on the brutal and unrelenting violence perpetuated by society. They are linked primarily by the setting. Indeed, as Vida Taranovski Johnson has argued, "a highly subjective, mythical Bosnia becomes a major theme and such a powerful presence that it attains the status of an autonomous being on a par with the characters themselves. The human characters, monumental and grotesque, indeed often appear only to be expressions or extensions of its complex, mysterious nature." In later works the explicit nature of the violence is often muffled, but cruelty and brutality are almost always just below the surface. No doubt influenced by three years spent in an Austrian prison during World War I, Andrić frequently focused on the theme of isolation, both physical and mental, in his stories, including "The Bridge of the Žepa" and The Devil's Yard. Yet Andrić's stories are not always pure gloom; some of his best-known characters, like the Franciscan monk Petar and the one-eyed village fool Corkan, who both appear in more than one work, are considered both comical and compelling.
Critics have praised Andrić's objective exploration of conflict, war, brutality, and hatred in his Bosnian stories. His ability to universalize these themes and experiences in his early work is thought to make him more than just a regional writer; rather, he is considered a cogent and insightful observer of the human condition. Moreover, Andrić's portrayal of the human capacity for evil has been regarded as an effective commentary on the modern world. Critics have also commended his use of legend and myth as well as his incorporation of historical events in his work. In fact, Andrić's utilization of diverse themes, characters, narrative styles, literary forms, ideology, and moods proves his versatility and facility as an author. In his short fiction, commentators have noted the influence of such writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Soren Kierkegaard, and Albert Camus.
Pripovetke. 3 vols. 1924-36
Nove pripovetke 1948
Prića o vezirovom slonu [The Vizier's Elephant: Three Novellas] 1948
Pod grabičem: Pripovetke o životu bosanskog sela 1952
Lica (sketches and stories) 1960
The Pasha's Concubine and Other Tales 1968
Kuća na osami [The House in a Secluded Place] 1976
The Damned Yard and Other Stories 1992
Other Major Works
Ex ponto (prose poems) 1918
Nemiri (poetry) 1919
Gospodjica [The Woman from Sarajevo] (novel) 1945
Travnička hronika [Bosnian Story] (novel) 1945
Na Drini ćuprija [The Bridge on the Drina] (novel) 1945
Ljubav u kasabi (novel) 1963
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SOURCE: "The Work of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. XLI, No. 97, June, 1963, pp. 301-26.
[In the following essay, Goy explores autobiographical aspects of Andric's work and traces his development as an author.]
Relatively little has been written about Ivo Andrić's life, but such facts as are generally known are perhaps relevant to an understanding of his works. The date of his birth (10 October 1892) and the place where he spent his childhood give some suggestion of the experiences which led to many of his later ideas and of the factors that have made Bosnia so central to his stories and novels.
Andrić was born in Travnik in Bosnia where his mother was temporarily living. His parents' home was in Sarajevo where his father worked as an artisan and where Andrić lived until his second year when his father died and he went to live with a married aunt in Višegrad. There he spent the rest of his childhood, attending the gymnasium in Sarajevo; afterwards he went to the university of Zagreb to read Slavonic studies, and also to Vienna and Cracow.
The date of his birth is relevant since it meant that he grew up at a time when nationalist feeling in Bosnia was becoming increasingly violent and revolutionary. Mlada Bosna inspired most young intellectuals of the period and it was this nationalist feeling which...
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SOURCE: "The Basic World View in the Short Stories of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. X, No. 2, Summer, 1966, pp. 173-77.
[In the following essay, Mihailovich discusses the defining characteristics of Andrić's short stories.]
Ivo Andrić settled upon the short story as the genre most appropriate to him very early in his literary career. The main features of his narrative style are already discernible in his first stories and there is relatively little change in his basic world view or in his literary craftsmanship during the five decades of his development. Even his early works, poems in prose, and later his novels reveal his predilection for short story techniques. Essentially, Andrić has always remained a short story writer.1
The world of Ivo Andrić is most frequently Bosnia with its plethora of races, nationalities, religions, and creeds. The narrow region of Bosnia, however, widens by implication into the whole country, indeed the entire world. Although Andrić usually concentrates on the Turkish or Islamic element, he encompasses all nationalities and faiths. He often portrays Catholic characters also, whereas the third large group, the Orthodox, remains strangely in the background.
Andrić likes to dwell on the distant past. Many of his stories, as well as novels, are called chronicles. In his treatment of minute detail he...
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SOURCE: "Bosnia through the Ages," in New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1968, pp. 4, 31.
[In the following favorable review of The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories, Simon lauds Andrić as "a master of the unspoken."]
Ivo Andrić is a master of the unspoken. Other writers may go further in giving expression to the ideas and cognitions of man. But whatever is dark and indefinable, too deep for psychologizing to label, is caught in Andrić's fictions—caught not the way a dead butterfly is pinned to our consciousness, but as some terrible beast is tracked to its lair, to be heard and occasionally glimpsed, but never handled and catalogued. If greatness can be in intimations and implications (and why can't it?). Andric is a great writer who must and will burst the bonds of the little-known language he writes in.
The Pasha's Concubine and Other Tales is the first generous selection in English from the Yugoslav Nobel Prize-winner's several volumes of short stories; and it is in his stories rather than in his novels that Andrić is at his best. For if there is one thing he cannot manage very well, it is sustained dialogue—a flaw that is perhaps related to his respect for certain unexplainables. What happens in these tales of Bosnia through centuries of occupation by Turks, Austrians, Germans verges on the Conradian sense of horror and the Joycean concentration on...
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SOURCE: "Tales of a Seer Between Two Worlds," in Saturday Review, Vol. LI, No. 31, August 3, 1968, p. 22.
[In the following review, Lord provides a laudatory assessment of The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories]
Publication of Ivo Andrić's The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories marks a significant milestone in the opening up of Yugoslav literature to the English-speaking world. Hitherto we have had available a few isolated works, but not enough by which to judge any single author. It is true that Andric's three novels have been translated, but his strength lies in the short story and the novella, and only three or four of those have been readily accessible. His stories from the Twenties and Thirties (eight of which are included in this volume) deepen our knowledge of the art and thought of one of the best writers of our day. The collection enables English-speaking readers to appraise the work of Ivo Andric more nearly as a whole.
The volume opens with "The Bridge on the Zepa," a haunting story of the building of a bridge in Bosnia, of a powerful but shadowy vizier, and of a demonic Italian master builder. One notes here, as in all his work, that Andrić's chief concern is with the thoughts and feelings of people; history, social as well as political, is a background for the individual and his psychology.
The second story, "The Journey of Ali...
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SOURCE: "The Later Stories of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 112, July, 1970, pp. 341-56.
[In the following essay, Eekman refutes the idea that Andrić's later stories are pessimistic in nature, maintaining that hope can be found in his work.]
Ivo Andrić acquired his fame as the most outstanding modern Yugoslav prose writer primarily because of his short stories set in old Bosnia, written in the 1920s and 1930s, and his Bosnian novels, published after the second world war. It is generally held that his 'Bosnian' prose is superior to his works on other themes; and the Nobel prize for literature, awarded him in 1961, honoured the chronicler of Višegrad, Travnik, Sarajevo and other Bosnian places, rather than the author of 'Zeko' or of the collection of prose pieces: Faces (Lica). The two Bosnian novels are considered the coping stones of his œuvre. Of his later works only Devil's Yard (Prokleta avlija), which is closely connected with the Bosnian stories, is considered an important work.
There is no doubt that Andrić's prose is uneven in quality and that his highest achievements are to be found in works such as Alija Djerzelez', 'The Bridge on the Žepa' ('Most na Žepi'), 'Anika's Times' ('Anikina vremena'), and the 'Story of the Vizier's Elephant' ('Priča u vezirovom slonu'), among others....
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SOURCE: "Between Two Worlds: Andrić the Storyteller," in Review of National Literatures: The Multinational Literature of Yugoslavia, edited by Albert B. Lord, Vol. V, No. 1, Spring, 1974, pp. 112-26.
[In the following essay, Loud surveys the major themes of Andric's short fiction]
When he accepted the Nobel Prize in literature in 1961, Ivo Andrić took pains to describe himself as a storyteller above all else. Though his international stature at that time, certainly in England and America, was doubtless attributable to the three novels written between 1941 and 1944 at the midpoint in his career, in his native land it was Andrić's work in the short story that had established him as a major writer. Between the wars, his stories appeared at a regular rate of two or three yearly, while their author in the meantime rose in the Yugoslav diplomatic service. They attracted particular attention as studies in psychological excess and as suggestive portrayals of nightmare and ecstasy, those inner worlds where the true lives of Andric's characters unfold. Not only for his unusual philosophic outlook did Andrić attain eminence, but also for his use of language: measured, rhythmically balanced periods, stylistic choice and, on a larger scale, that impeccable craft and economy of organization which distinguishes most of his narratives. These are the qualities that have made of Andrić a classic in his own country....
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SOURCE: "Bosnia Demythologized: Character and Motivation in Ivo Andrić's Stories Mara milosnica and O starim i mladim Pamukovićima," in Die Welt der Sloven, Vol. 25, No. 1,1980, pp. 98-108.
[In the following essay, Johnson examines Andrić's changing portrayal of Bosnia by comparing his early story "Mara the Concubine" to his later story, "About the Old and Young Pamukovićes."]
Ivo Andrić was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 for the "epic force" with which he presented the history of his land. The stories and novels about Bosnia occupy a position of central importance in his fiction and reflect most clearly its development in both thematic and formal terms. Major changes have been noted in his writing, particularly after World War II. One can, in fact, identify a thematic shift away from bizarre, violent passions and the curse of heredity, from the legendary Bosnia, to the historical reality of a country torn by complex economic, cultural, and political problems. To date little attempt has been made to explicate the formal means by which Andrić reduces myth to a social problem.
That Bosnia is demythologized primarily on the level of characterization and motivation can be seen most clearly in a comparison of the same set of characters who appear in two stories written more than twenty years apart. In "Mara milosnica" ("Mara the Concubine") (1926),...
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SOURCE: "Ivo Andrić's Kuća na osami (The House in a Secluded Place): Memories and Ghosts of the Writer's Past," in Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe: Evolution and Experiment in the Postwar Period, edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Thomas Eekman, Slavica Publishers, 1980, pp. 239-50.
[In the following essay, Johnson urges a reassessment of Andrić's later fiction, and views the stories and sketches that comprise Lica as an important predecessor to Kuća na osami.]
When he died in 1975 at the age of 82, Ivo Andrić had been Yugoslavia's foremost writer for three decades. He was a national institution. Recognized as a talented storyteller in the twenties and thirties, he achieved national prominence in 1945 with the publication of his three novels, Travnička hronika (The Bosnian Story), Na Drini ćuprija (The Bridge on the Drina), and Gospodjica (Miss). Worldwide recognition came in the form of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961. Although he published approximately one hundred stories and fragments in the three decades after World War II, only one longer work, Prokleta avlija (The Devil's Yard) and a handful of short stories received the undivided critical acclaim accorded his earlier fiction. The evolution to delicate psychological portraiture and a more refined form was hailed by critics. Yet the fact that...
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SOURCE: "The Short Stories of Ivo Andrić: Autobiography and the Chain of Proof," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 67, No. 1, January, 1989, pp. 29-41.
[In the following essay, Rosslyn emphasizes the importance of testimony and truth in Andrić's short fiction.]
In most of Andrić's stories a character experiences some kind of agonizing constraint, whether from physical causes, like disease or old age, or metaphysical ones, like guilt. The character chokes on his or her sensations, and the reader chokes in sympathy—for no one is better than Andrić at arousing the feelings he describes. Some of the stories are positively unpleasant to read, in consequence, and perhaps none of them is more strikingly unpleasant than 'Autobiography', where the narrator of the story (a kindly literary figure hardly to be distinguished from Andrić himself) goes through a series of tortured emotions from an anxiety that Andrić must have had very much at heart: what justification there is for writing and publishing at all. The narrator has been badgered to help get published the autobiography of a provincial judge, and, suspicious of the delay, the judge finally presents himself on the doorstep. The narrator observes,
The sense of an unfulfilled duty and unpaid debt that had been growing in me with each one of the judge's letters—a senseless and illogical feeling, but...
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SOURCE: "The Little Men in 'Bar Titanic'," in Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography, McFarland & Company, 1990, pp. 123-30.
[In the following essay, Mukerji perceives "Bar Titanic'" as Andrić's commentary on Nazi atrocities during World War II]
Pieced together from coarse slices of Bosnian life, the grim realities of the Nazi offensive and the Independent State of Croatia (in which Bosnia-Hercegovina was included), Andrić's "Bar 'Titanic'" is an arresting story. Its protagonists are representative of different species of victims and tormentors: Jew and Ustasha together contribute the ironic nuances of a Yugoslav tragedy in a Sarajevo bar.
Mento Papo's misnamed 'Titanic' on the fringe of the city is part of a two-storied house to which "a poverty without charm and picturesqueness" (page 194) clings. An architectural hybrid of Central European and Near Eastern styles conspicuous in local buildings erected in the 1890s, it suggests "a life without thought and perspective" (194), its plaster "scaling off like leprosy, windows curtainless, flowerless, like diseased eyes without eyelashes and eyebrows" (194). The cafe proper is a dark room on the ground floor, "six paces long and two wide" (194), with a miniature bar but no stools. An invisible door at the end of it leads to Mento's flat and the gambling den, two bigger rooms with windows overlooking what might have been a garden but is...
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SOURCE: An introduction to The Damned Yard and Other Stories, edited by Celia Hawkesworth, Forest Books, 1992, pp. v-ix.
[In the following essay, Hawkesworth offers a thematic overview of the stories comprising The Damned Yard and Other Stories.]
This selection of Andrić's short stories and the novella The Damned Yard highlights a number of recurrent themes from his work. Their primary setting is Bosnia, where Andrić spent the formative years of his life: he was born in Travnik on 9th October 1892, he spent his childhood in ViSegrad, near the border with Serbia, and his secondary school years in Sarajevo. Travnik, which was the seat of Ottoman power in Bosnia, is the setting of Andric's novel, The Days of the Consuls (previously published as Bosnian Story), while Višegrad provides the context for numerous short stories and the novel The Bridge on the Drina. While Andrić's work includes some timeless stories and some set in a neutral post-Second World War urban context, much of it is set in Bosnia and is closely dependent on this setting.
A leitmotiv of Andrić's work is the material nature of human experience: wary of abstraction, he roots his stories in a specific geographical and historical context which has the effect both of qualifying the statement and, more importantly, of stressing the fact that all universal truths that may be abstracted...
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Butler, Thomas. "Ivo Andrić: a 'Yugoslav' Writer." Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture, pp. 117-21. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991.
Investigates the changing dialect of Andrić's work and whether the shift was politically motivated.
Christowe, Stoyan. "Guilt, Sin, Above All, Fear." New York Times Book Review (October 28, 1962): 4.
Provides a mixed review of The Vizier's Elephant and Devil's Yard.
Ginsburg, Michael. "Voice from a Bosnian Inferno." Saturday Review 45, No. 47 (November 24, 1962): 31-2.
Praises the dignity and diverse nature of the stories collected in The Vizier's Elephant and Devil's Yard.
Juričić, Želimir. "All of Alija's Women: Andrić's Realization of 'Ex Ponto' Visions." East European Literature, pp. 23-32. Berkeley: Berkeley Slavic Specialties, 1982.
Maintains that "a number of structural and contextual similarities suggest that Ex Ponto and 'The Journey of Derzelez Alija' form a natural link in Andrić's development."
Additional coverage of Andrić's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Gale Group: Contemporary...
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