Ivo Andri is undoubtedly best known in the English-speaking world as the author of what has been called one of the great novels of the twentieth century, The Bridge on the Drina. Primarily for this novel, and for two others about life in his native Bosnia published at the same time, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961. Until this “Bosnian trilogy” brought him considerable fame, he had not been widely known outside his own country. His reputation has gone through three distinct phases. From 1918 to 1941, Andri came to be recognized, primarily in Yugoslavia, as that nation’s leading writer of short stories and as one of its better poets and essayists. The second phase, from 1941 to 1961, established his fame as a writer of novels and novellas, culminating in his winning the Nobel Prize. In this period, especially in the 1950’s, he gained his first wide readership throughout the Western Hemisphere. Finally, in the period from the Nobel Prize onward, he gained worldwide recognition, with his novels and short stories translated into more than thirty languages and appearing in many paperback reprints.
Andri is one of a very few Nobel Prize winners whose work continues to be admired equally by both professional critics and the general public. As a novelist, he has been praised especially for his vivid and lifelike characterizations, for his ability to relate individual dilemmas to larger social forces, and for “the epic force with which he has depicted themes and human destinies drawn from the history of his country,” in the words of the Nobel Prize Committee. It was Andri’s fame that first drew the attention of the rest of the world to the high quality of Yugoslav literature in general.