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.