Characters Discussed

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Jean Baptiste-Étienne Daville

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Jean Baptiste-Étienne Daville (zhahn bahp-TEEST-ay-TYEHN dah-VEEL), a French consul in Travnik. As a representative of French power and civilization, Daville has the difficult task of upholding a semblance of civility in a remote Balkan town ruled by the Ottoman Empire. Caught in a constant silent struggle between the other two powers, Turkey and Austro-Hungary, he accomplishes the task adroitly but not without a price to his personal life. He writes an epic poem about Alexander the Great and adores his mentor and idol, Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps because of the stifling environment, but more likely because he is not exceptionally clever and gifted, he fails to develop his intellect fully and to embrace new ideas sweeping Europe. His faith in human values, however, which he saw symbolized in Napoleon, helps him to survive the fall of his idol and keep a decor of civility even when it seems out of place. After his tour of duty, he leaves Travnik battered but not defeated, saddened but not bitter, and content with a job well done.

Josef von Mitterer

Josef von Mitterer, an Austrian consul in Travnik. Daville’s counterpart, von Mitterer is made of a different fiber. Capable and efficient, with an unerring sense of purpose, and polite but unemotional, he accomplishes his task unwaveringly. Even though he realizes that Daville represents Western values similar to his own, von Mitterer seems to enjoy sparring with his French partner. Lacking the inner life and mental agility of his French partner and conditioned by his military upbringing and diplomatic vocation, he sacrifices human qualities to his sense of duty and expediency.

Mehmed-Pasha

Mehmed-Pasha, the first of the Turkish viziers. A former slave from Georgia who climbed his way to a high position in the Turkish hierarchy thanks to his natural abilities, Mehmed-Pasha never forgets the power that he serves and represents, yet he always shows a friendly face and a smile, which hide his real thoughts and feelings. When Mehmed-Pasha is replaced after an internal struggle at the Turkish court, Daville feels a personal loss of a polite partner with whom he could talk and do business.

Ibrahim-Pasha

Ibrahim-Pasha, Mehmed-Pasha’s replacement as a vizier, the exact opposite of his predecessor and much more difficult to work with. He is beset by various illnesses, “a walking ruin,” morose and ill-willed most of the time, and surrounded by a similarly dispositioned group of assistants (the local people call them “a museum of monsters”). Under this unpleasant veneer, Daville discovers a very unhappy man with whom he can still work.

Ali-Pasha

Ali-Pasha, the third Turkish vizier, who turns out to be the worst of the three. Upon taking over, he proceeds to execute all the undesirable elements, such as thieves, gamblers, idlers, and political prisoners. Once his rule of iron hand is established, however, he becomes polite and even seemingly friendly with the two Western consuls. At the same time, neither he nor the other viziers ever forget that the power that they serve cannot hold foreign territories without the rule of an iron fist.

Madame Daville

Madame Daville, the French consul’s wife. Small and frail in appearance, she is a dedicated wife and a determined helper in her husband’s difficult task. Her practicality and strong religious beliefs make it easier for her to overcome various misfortunes, such as the loss of a child for lack of medical help. Her gentle nature of simple yet true nobility serves as a beacon of devotion and reason in the midst of a primitive and often hostile environment. She is the most redeeming character in the novel.

Amédée Chaumette des Fossés

Amédée Chaumette des Fossés (ah-may-DAY shoh-MEHT day foh-SAY), Daville’s assistant. Des Fossés represents a new breed of French diplomats. Much more flexible and open to changes, practical, and expedient, he is better suited for the rough-and-tumble world of power politics.

César d’Avenat

César d’Avenat (say-ZAHR dah-veh-NAH), called Davna, the vizier’s doctor and interpreter. An adventurer and connoisseur of people, Davna is the most colorful, even if a less important, character in the novel. Born in Italy of French parentage, he travels to many places and serves many masters. Travnik, with its plethora of races and its international intrigue, becomes a perfect stage for him.

The Characters

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Many characters parade through the novel, as befits a chronicle of turbulent, even if peripheral, events in history, the Napoleonic wars. Many of the characters, though masterfully sketched, remain sketches nevertheless, serving only to highlight the protagonists. Among the main characters are the two consuls and the three viziers.

Daville is a typical representative of the French power and culture of the times. Well educated, thoroughly civilized, and professionally trained, he does his job well, within the limitations imposed by circumstances. He also serves as a striking foil to the world in which he finds himself. Amid illiteracy and backwardness, he writes an epic poem about Alexander the Great, thus retaining a civilized decorum even when it seems out of place. He also keeps a polite demeanor even when most people around him either lose theirs or never had it. Not exceptionally clever or gifted, he nevertheless reaches the level of competence without losing the human touch that is often lacking among his cohabitants. At the same time, he is often unable to cope with the strange world, because he lacks temperament and strong individuality. He is therefore lonely, melancholy, and constantly worried. It is his faith in human values exemplified, in his opinion, by Napoleon, that enables him to survive even after the demise of his idol. In this sense, he is also a victim of his faith and ideals, yet he shows no regrets, resigning himself to his destiny. Lacking the religious fervor of his wife and the expediency and practicality of his younger assistant des Fosses, he seems to be ill-suited for the changes around him and certainly for the strange world into which he was thrust for a while. Yet he comes out of all these predicaments battered but not defeated, saddened but not bitter.

His counterpart, von Mitterer, is in many ways his opposite. Capable and meticulously efficient, purposeful, polite but unemotional, he does what he is supposed to do. He sees an enemy in Daville but not personally, realizing that he is only doing his duty and tacitly assuring Daville that their enmity is only on a professional basis. Confronted with the alien world and aware that Daville as a Westerner is still closer to him than the local populace, he nevertheless follows his sense of duty; he even seems to enjoy his skirmishes with his Western rival. Lacking the inner life and mental agility of his French counterparts and constrained by his military-diplomatic vocation, he is depicted much less favorably than Daville, mainly because he sacrifices his human qualities on the altar of duty and expediency.

The three Turkish viziers, though different in many ways, share the indelible stamp that their culture left on them. As representatives of an empire, they see it as their duty to uphold the laws and interests of the empire, yet they go a step further. Even when they are polite and friendly on the surface, they seldom show the concern for human values found among their Western counterparts. Ibrahim-Pasha, for example, flaunts a pile of cut-off noses and ears from the slain Serbian rebels. Whether it is the nature of their position that makes them inscrutable and efficacious or whether it is a conviction that an empire can survive only through rigorous means without sentimentality, they are all portrayed as ruthless and implacable servants of the state, embodiments of a way of life that is indeed different from that of the Western world.

Other characters are too minor to merit much attention. Daville’s wife is depicted as the most humane of all the characters in the novel, a woman of simple yet true nobility. Daville’s assistants and allies, des Fosses and d’Avenat, show a balance of virtues and vices. D’Avenat, an adventurer and a connoisseur of people, is especially colorful. Von Mitterer’s replacement,von Paulich, is the exact pendant of des Fosses, young, energetic, practical,and unencumbered with superfluous concerns. They all serve to fill the rich tapestry of the life in Travnik and are indispensable even though they lack full portraiture.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 74

Cooper, Henry R., Jr. “The Image of Bosnia in the Fiction of Ivo Andri,” in Serbian Studies. III (1984/1985), pp. 83-105.

Dzadzic, Petar. Ivo Andri, 1960.

Ferguson, Alan. “Public and Private Worlds in Travnik Chronicle,” in The Modern Language Review. LXX (1975), pp. 830-838.

Goy, Edward D. “The Work of Ivo Andri,” in Slavonic and East European Review. XLI (1963), pp. 301-326.

Kadic, Ante. “The French in The Chronicle of Travnik,” in California Slavic Studies. I (1960), pp. 134-169.

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