Biography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 485

Ivo Andri (AHN-dreech) was born on October 10, 1892, in Dolac, a small town near Travnik in central Bosnia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both of his parents were Catholics, which led to a long-standing controversy about whether he was a Serbian or a Croatian writer. After his father’s death, his mother moved with Ivo to Viegrad, a town on the Drina River with its famous bridge built in the sixteenth century. Andri attended elementary school in Viegrad, high school in Sarajevo, and universities in Zagreb, Vienna, and Krakow. As a student, he developed strong nationalistic feelings and joined Young Bosnia, a revolutionary movement the opposed the Austrian occupation of Bosnia. His political activism resulted in his being sentenced to a three-year term in prison, but he was released in 1917 because of poor health.

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While in prison, he started his literary career by writing a book of prose poems, Ex Ponto (1918). Two years later, he published another book of prose poems, Nemiri (unrest). After World War I, Andri entered the diplomatic service of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1923 he was a vice consul in Graz, but his position was endangered because he had not finished his graduate work at the University of Sarajevo. He enrolled at the University of Graz and received his doctorate after writing his dissertation in German, Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkung der türkischen Herrschaft (1924; The Development of Spiritual Life in Bosnia Under the Influence of Turkish Rule, 1990). He remained in diplomatic service in various capitals until 1941. Andri continued to write during this time, primarily short stories, and was praised by many critics as the best Serbian short-story writer in the period between the two world wars.

At the beginning of World War II, Andri was a Yugoslav ambassador in Germany. It was a very difficult position, for he had to represent his country against Adolf Hitler’s aggressive policy, which eventually led to the German attack and occupation of Yugoslavia in April, 1941. Andri resigned his position because the Yugoslav government had joined a military pact with Germany and the other Axis powers. He was sent back to Belgrade, where he spent the entire occupation, writing his major novels but refusing to join any side in the struggle between the Communist and nationalist forces for supremacy. After the war, Andri accepted the new Communist regime, started publishing his novels, and participated in the literary life of the new Yugoslavia. He was honored as the best living Serbian writer and received numerous awards, culminating in the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961.

Andri continued to write, primarily short stories, brief novels, and essays. He was also working on the continuation of his Bosnian historical novels, which, unfortunately, remained unfinished. He died in Belgrade on March 13, 1975, hailed as the most important contemporary Serbian writer and the only southern Slav to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.

Biography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 933

Ivo Andri (AHN-dreech) is one of the greatest writers in the former Yugoslavia and the only Yugoslav recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in a small village near Travnik in Bosnia, the son of an impoverished silversmith, and he spent his early childhood in Sarajevo. After his father’s death he was sent to live in Viegrad, where he finished elementary school. Upon completing high school in Sarajevo, he studied Slavic literature and history at universities in Zagreb, Vienna, Kracow, and Graz. During World War I he was arrested by Austrian authorities as a Yugoslav nationalist, and the three years he spent in confinement almost ruined his health. In prison Andri wrote his first literary works, poems in prose that were collected in Ex Ponto and Nemiri (restlessness). After his country’s liberation and unification he entered the diplomatic service in 1921 and served in that capacity in Rome, Bucharest, Madrid, and Geneva; his last post was in Berlin at the time of Germany’s 1941 attack on Yugoslavia., Ivo[Andric, Ivo]}, Ivo[Andric, Ivo]}, Ivo[Andric, Ivo]}

Andri abandoned poetry in the early 1920’s and started writing short stories, eventually becoming the leading short-story writer in Yugoslav literature between the two world wars. The main features of his narrative style are discernible in his first stories, and there is relatively little change in his basic worldview or in his narrative technique during the five decades of his development. His early prose poems, as well as his later novels, reveal his predilection for storytelling.

The setting for Andri’s fiction is most frequently Bosnia, with its numerous races, nationalities, and religions, but the content of the writing by implication takes in the whole country and the world. Although Andri usually concentrates on the Islamic believers, he also portrays Christian characters. In his work Andri likes to dwell in the distant past, and in his use of minute detail he is scrupulously faithful to the historical sources. His focus on the past signifies not escape from the present but rather his keen understanding of the unity of time and space in the history of the Bosnian people.

In his stories Andri shows scores of disabled and mentally ill people as well as people who carry deep within themselves a heavy burden of guilt. The characters display an acute sense of loneliness and have difficulties reaching an understanding with those around them. They spend their lives in search of identity. Strong individuals are condemned to a futile existence; when out of passion or frustration they allow pent-up emotions to erupt, they come to a tragic end and pull others into the abyss. Despite describing such a bleak atmosphere, Andri is not negating life. He firmly believes that there exists an unknown formula that governs the relationship between joy and sorrow, and he sees life as a constant struggle between opposites in nature, especially in the human soul. In the human ability to win that struggle and be extricated from the oppressing forces lies Andri’s solution of the riddle of life.

Andri spent World War II in seclusion in Belgrade, writing the three major novels on which his fame rests. After the war he occupied various important positions, including those of member of parliament and head of the writers’ union. In 1961 he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. During the interwar years, when he wrote nothing but short stories, he honed his skills for greater achievements. The short story was Andri’s most natural genre, but he was equally at home with the novel, mainly because he used a similar technique of storytelling. Two of his major novels, Bosnian Story and The Bridge on the Drina, are in essence chronicles, the former covering eight years and the latter four and a half centuries.

Bosnian Story relates the experiences of the French consul in Travnik, then under Turkish administration. Rather than being a straight historical chronicle, the novel depicts a contrast between the West, represented by the French and Austrian consuls, and the East, represented by the Turks. The interplay of these forces, the lack of mutual understanding, and the resulting chasm form the backbone of the novel. In addition the psychological penetration of the characters, especially that of the French consul Daville, yields masterly microstudies that led some critics to consider the novel to be Andri’s best work.

The Bridge on the Drina is a novel of truly epic proportions. On the most superficial level, it is the story of the famous bridge at Viegrad, from its conception in the middle of the sixteenth century to the beginning of World War I. More important, however, it is the story of generations of the people living by the bridge and of their struggles against the Turkish rulers and against one another. In all their struggles, a desire to live in liberty, peace, and harmony is the guiding force. Because the Drina River was the dividing line between Serbia and Bosnia held by the Turks, the bridge becomes the symbol of bridging the West and the East, of permanence in the world of constant change, and of a better future.

The novella Devil’s Yard is also praised by most critics. It is the story of the imprisonment in Istanbul of a young scholar from the Balkans and of his efforts to preserve his dignity against the injustice of his sentence and the cruelty of the warden personifying the quintessential tyrant. As in so many of his works, Andri uses struggle and suffering to underscore his basic belief in the sanctity of human life.

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