(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

According to some critics, Bosnian Chronicle is Ivo Andri’s best work. Although not as popular as The Bridge on the Drina, it contains many basic features of Andri’s writing. Perhaps for that reason, it was translated three times into English: as Bosnian Story, translated by Kenneth Johnstone in 1958, with a revised edition in 1979; as Bosnian Chronicle, translated by Joseph Hitrec in 1963; and as The Days of the Consuls, translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Bogdan Raki in 1992. Andri assiduously studied archives and other historical sources for this and his other major works, both complete and unfinished.

The events in the novel take place in the first decade of the nineteenth century, primarily in Travnik, a consular town in central Bosnia. Travnik, as well as most of Bosnia, was occupied by the Ottoman Empire following centuries of conquest of Balkan lands. The French had just occupied nearby Dalmatia and were concerned with the Turkish presence in Bosnia; the Austrians had always regarded neighboring Bosnia as a territory of their utmost concern. A combination of these three factors made a fertile ground for intrigues, in addition to executions of foreign policy matters of the three states extremely active in European affairs at the time. The consulate in Travnik was situated at the westernmost border of the Ottoman Empire and was the residence of a vizier. Since France established its presence in the vicinity and the Turks were forced to retreat from Hungary, Travnik had acquired a significance beyond its strategic and political value.

Although the development of the novel’s protagonists to a large degree was influenced by historical events, Bosnian Chronicle is more of a study of its characters than an historical novel. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, there were three Turkish consuls, or viziers, in Travnik, all three different in nature yet all conducting their duty for the advantage of the Ottoman Empire. Mehmed-Pasha, a former slave from Georgia, never forgets the state he serves with a friendly face and a smile, which makes it easier for other consuls to work with him. Ibrahim-Pasha is the opposite; he and his assistants and...

(The entire section is 911 words.)


(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Bosnian Chronicle is a chronicle of life in Travnik, a provincial Turkish capital in Bosnia during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Since then, Travnik has lost all significance and is now merely a small town, but in those days, it was an administrative seat at the westernmost border of the Ottoman Empire and the residence of a vizier. Because the French occupied nearby Dalmatia and the Turks were forced to retreat from Hungary, Travnik became important beyond its true political and strategic value. It was so important that in 1806 the French found it necessary to send a consul, Jean Baptiste-Etienne Daville, to keep an eye on the Turks. This appointment, in turn, prompted the Austrians to send their own consul, Josef von Mitterer.

Both consuls find themselves under the constant vigil of the distrustful Turks. Non-Turkish inhabitants welcome them, each group in its own way: Catholic Croats are friendly toward von Mitterer while shunning Daville; the small Jewish community supports Daville; and the Orthodox Serbs distrust both, pinning their hopes on Russia, which is expected to send its consul also. Yet they are all powerless under the Turkish domination.

Daville, a middle-aged diplomat who writes classical poetry and tries to keep the semblance of civilization in a town whose life-style resembles that of the Middle Ages, finds it difficult to function, yet he endures for the sake of his idol Napoleon Bonaparte and for the glory of France. Von Mitterer has it somewhat easier, for Bosnia is in Austria’s backyard and the non-Turkish population is more sympathetic to him. Both of them, however, must deal primarily with Turkish viziers, who wield all power and can thwart all of their...

(The entire section is 707 words.)