Ivo Andrić Andrić, Ivo (Short Story Criticism) - Essay


(Short Story Criticism)

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.

Biographical Information

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.

Major Works

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.

Critical Reception

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.

Principal Works

(Short Story Criticism)

Short Fiction

Pripovetke. 3 vols. 1924-36

Nove pripovetke 1948

Prića o vezirovom slonu [The Vizier's Elephant: Three Novellas] 1948

Novele 1951

Pod grabičem: Pripovetke o životu bosanskog sela 1952

Lica (sketches and stories) 1960

The Pasha's Concubine and Other Tales 1968

Kuća na osami [The House in a Secluded Place] 1976

The Damned Yard and Other Stories 1992

Other Major Works

Ex ponto (prose poems) 1918

Nemiri (poetry) 1919

Gospodjica [The Woman from Sarajevo] (novel) 1945

Travnička hronika [Bosnian Story] (novel) 1945

Na Drini ćuprija [The Bridge on the Drina] (novel) 1945

Ljubav u kasabi (novel) 1963

Letters 1984

E. D. Goy (essay date 1963)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Work of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. XLI, No. 97, June, 1963, pp. 301-26.

[In the following essay, Goy explores autobiographical aspects of Andric's work and traces his development as an author.]


Relatively little has been written about Ivo Andrić's life, but such facts as are generally known are perhaps relevant to an understanding of his works. The date of his birth (10 October 1892) and the place where he spent his childhood give some suggestion of the experiences which led to many of his later ideas and of the factors that have made Bosnia so central to his stories and novels.

Andrić was born in Travnik in Bosnia where his mother was temporarily living. His parents' home was in Sarajevo where his father worked as an artisan and where Andrić lived until his second year when his father died and he went to live with a married aunt in Višegrad. There he spent the rest of his childhood, attending the gymnasium in Sarajevo; afterwards he went to the university of Zagreb to read Slavonic studies, and also to Vienna and Cracow.

The date of his birth is relevant since it meant that he grew up at a time when nationalist feeling in Bosnia was becoming increasingly violent and revolutionary. Mlada Bosna inspired most young intellectuals of the period and it was this nationalist feeling which culminated in the assassination of the Austrian archduke in Sarajevo by Gavril Princip and the outbreak of the first world war. The assassination had a direct effect on Andrić's life for, together with other young patriots, he was arrested in 1914 and remained in internment until 1917, an experience which appears to have contributed to his ever-present sense of insecurity and isolation. After his release, Andrić resumed his interrupted education at the university of Graz where in 1924 he completed his doctor's dissertation, Die Entwicklung des geistigen Lebens in Bosnien unter der Einwirkung der türkischen Herrschaft. On the completion of his studies he entered the diplomatic service and served in Rome, Bucarest, Madrid and Geneva, ending his career as Yugoslav ambassador in Berlin. Repatriated to Belgrade by the Germans, Andrić spent the war in retirement, under the terror of German-occupied Belgrade.1

As early as 1911 Andrić had published poems, articles and translations in the periodicals Vihor and Bosanska vila. On his release from internment he founded a new periodical, Književni jug, in Zagreb, supporting the idea of the new Yugoslavia. In 1918 he published a collection of poetic prose, Ex ponto, followed in 1920 by a second collection, Nemiri.

Soon after, Andrić began to publish short stories, the first of which, "Put Alije Djerzeleza", appeared in 1920, followed by "Mustafa Madjar", "Mara milosnica" and "Most na Žepi" in 1925. His stories appeared in collected editions in 1924, 1931 and 1936. During his retirement under the German occupation he wrote his three novels, Travnička hronika (1942), Na Drini ćuprija (1943) and Gospodjica (1944), all of which were published in 1945 after the war. Since then, apart from occupying important positions as a member of the narodna skupština for Bosnia and Hercegovina, and of the federal parliament, and as president of the writers' union of Serbia, Andrić has continued to publish collections of short stories in 1954 and 1960 as well as the long story Prokleta avlija in 1954. In 1961 he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, becoming the first Yugoslav writer to attain world renown.

Andric's life presents a certain pattern. His youth was spent within the triangle of three Bosnian towns, Travnik, Sarajevo and ViSegrad (Travnik is some 70 km. to the north-west of Sarajevo and ViSegrad about the same distance to the east), an area featuring prominently in his works. He spent the first world war in prison, away from the horrors around him, yet truly plunged in the midst of horror as a helpless prisoner, isolated in an inner world of fear and insecurity. In the second world war the pattern recurs. Andrić spent it in the wider prison of occupied Belgrade, once more subjected to the terror of war without directly partaking in it, always the prisoner of fate, alone in a world of danger and uncertainty. It is interesting to remember that, just as he produced Ex ponto in prison, so in the second prison of occupied Belgrade he produced the three novels which mark the zenith of his work.


Andrić's first major works, Ex ponto and Nemiri, are an expression of their author's lyrical suffering and awareness of the dilemma in which he found himself. The first world war had a shattering impact on many Yugoslav writers and intellectuals. Its effects are reflected in the works of such different writers as Miroslav Krleža and Miloš Crnjanski. What had been an era of national struggle, which the Balkan wars appeared to have crowned with victory, suddenly became a world holocaust in which a whole age dissolved in fire and violence. War, prison, personal fear and suffering are never absent from Andrić's first prose passages. In his case it is certainly true that 'The years 1914-1917 betrayed every hope and destroyed not only every support but every hope of support'.2Ex ponto and Nemiri are the fruit of long introspection. They are a poetic expression of their author's situation in the world. The individual's existence is postulated as a state of fear and suffering in a life that has neither security nor peace. Existence itself is fear that comes to man with the realisation of himself. In Nemir vijeka, Andrić expresses this as a cross mystically handed to the child to bear throughout his life:

When I was a child you chose and ordained me to follow your path. I was scarcely four years old when I dreamed that a saint came down to me from an icon, pale and wreathed in flowers like a man deceased, and gave me the cross that weighed heavy on him.

And nothing else did you give me for the path.

God appeared as a challenging force, a struggle in everything. It is only on coming into communion with this universal power that man can escape from isolation.

I passed through life and knocked left and right on the doors of other peoples' fates, but all of them, as if by tortuous treaty, were closed to me. In vain I hurled myself at the door of man only afterwards to sit long on a stone, my hands bloody. . . . I could not understand why every living man was for me a mystery with moist, fluttering eyes, and why at my approach every door was closed as at some secret sign.

And it is Thou who turned me away from the world, as a child is weaned from the breast. . . . It was Thou, oh terrible one who stretched an invisible arm between me and people so as to surround me, alone and deserted, with the love that hurts and sanctifies.

This God is close to what is called pantheistic: 'He is the warmth in the breath of all that lives'. This is almost the last direct mention of God in Andrić's works. Already in the second section of Nemiri, Nemir dana, the imagery has changed from the religious to the psychological. The God of Nemiri vijeka is less a person than a force of life, its sense and unity. Suffering is as universal as struggle. Its root is fear and isolation from men and God. Man is faced with himself, a self that is secret as are all other selves that he sees around him.

God is a tragic concept. He is both darkness and light in a perpetually alternating pattern.

While birth and death clash and struggle about me in mighty blows, like two opposing winds, with my arms and breast I shelter my small flame of manhood, a tiny light that fills with its short gleaming only the two moist fields of my eyes and is unseen in the vault of heaven.

Andrić tells how, travelling in a train on his way to internment, he sees the countryside pass by the window, but at night

I saw in the pane, beyond which lay the night, my own face, nothing save my own face that I was born with. I saw it rocking and wavering like that of a drowning man in an evening river. In vain did I close my eyes. I was condemned to gaze into them again and again for ever.

Isolation and the fear it brings are conditions of life. Thus, in Iznad pobjeda, there is no such thing as victory. All action is merely action, existence. There is no escape into ideals or achievements. Despair is the condition of existence: 'There is no victory. Only a little blood-stained lie and a great misfortune. . . . What are today's victories but tomorrow's defeats?' In the final section of Nemiri, Bregovi, God is replaced by the hills as the symbol of existence. Now the author is 'I who have no gods'. For him, the hills represent the struggle of existence in the inanimate, in which man suffers and searches for constancy. Everywhere around him is change and change: 'The days torment me with disquietude, sleep deceives and youth brings pain and I hush my poisoned blood that I may better hear the echoes of times to come.' It is only in contemplation and silence that man may find sense. His greatest good is peace and security from the terrible uncertainty and disquietude of eternal change in a pattern of isolation of man from the world of things and men alike. If man could know, just once, that suffering was of value, that there was sufficient eternity for all, if he could know what all people were doing everywhere, then he would be filled with faith in invisible powers. But such a situation would be against the very nature of existence for then that same man, like a householder tired and at peace, would 'lie down to sleep away an eternity'. Suffering is the most basic truth of existence:

There is no truth save one; pain, pain and suffering in every drop of water, every blade of grass, in each facet of the crystal, in every sound of the living voice, in sleep and in wakening, in life and before life and probably even after life.

All life is the wavering alternation of light and dark, of undulating, vanishing forms among which man finds a temple in which priest and worshipper are one. Thus Andrić employs two images, the hills, 'the silence of life and of death', the silence that is beyond suffering, where alone man may find relief, and the storm that typifies the nature of existence as struggle. Suffering is life:

One evening I saw the inner nature of all things, the bloody inner side of life appeared naked and terrible in its dreadful tremulousness of roots, nerves, muscles and pulses. In an evening hour, in an atmosphere pregnant with human proximity, I saw the unconsciousness and isolation in which matter exists, works and exhausts itself and where cell after cell dies without light or awarencess in an accursed loneliness and suffering that afflicts all that is created, lives and moves.

Above all it is fear that makes the individual seek an answer to his predicament: 'Every contact with people flung me into an inexplicable and terrible fear. With each day new and unimagined possibilities of disaster and evil opened before me.'3

In accepting this view of existence as a process involving suffering as necessity, Andrić appears to lose any Christian sense of God. God becomes the whole, the mystery, because the whole cannot be directly perceived by the part. 'Life is an endless tide,' but 'God is the night in which our fate lies like something quiet and small.' Yet God is also in everything, in the day-to-day struggle of things in the shadow of a great mystery. It is in silence, the awareness of the silent existence of the hills, that man may come near to some understanding of the nature of reality, the whole that encompasses all things. At times Andric seems even to paraphrase Njegoš: 'All that exists is condemned to an endless struggle. Sea and cliff, the seed in the earth and the wind, all creatures, including man.' He sees no escape for men save in the realisation of silence, of existence itself rather than merely involvement with the process of existence. 'All hope is a lie and consolation an insult.' A man may desire to live for ever, but only with just sufficient pain in order to exist, to be an awareness without an ego, without voice or identity, in which storm and silence are one.4 But this is only possible as a dream or a momentary state, for the 'tired house-holder' would lie down to sleep.

The prose of Nemiri consists of a series of poetic moods. The style is essentially lyrical and evocative. Already in the short sections, Deca and "Priča iz Japana", Andrić uses the parable which figures in some of his later stories. In the latter he states his idea of art and poetry. Poetry may see the flickering alternation of light and dark that is existence itself as beauty and harmony. Thus the poet in the Japanese legend disclaims any part in victory or success, for both belong to illusion. Poetry has to do with suffering and struggle. It seeks the battle but avoids its fruits.

Nemiri and Ex ponto are of extreme importance for an understanding of the rest of Andrić's work. The general view of existence contained in them remains the basis of his entire writing. His oscillation between faith and doubt in Nemiri, between one mood and another, continues throughout his works. Tomislav Ladan showed perception in his remark that on examining the whole of Andrić's work its symmetry and consecutive development disappear, 'for the spiritual rise and fall alternates and repeats itself from his first lyrical prose to his latest works'.5 The essential problems raised in Ex ponto and Nemiri provide the continuity throughout all his works.6 The development lies in the quality of the experience, a quality that is naturally embodied also in a change of style. From the purely personal lyrical prose, not perhaps as sentimental in the bad sense of the word as Ladan regards it, yet lacking artistic maturity, Andrić develops an objectivisation of his concept of existence that brings him imaginatively close to people and external reality, offsetting the isolation and fear that are the themes of his early work. With Nemiri Andrić appears to have reached a turning point in his writing. Yet, both in style and subject, his later work is a development of Ex ponto and Nemiri and it is in this light that it will now be examined.


With the publication of "Put Alije Djerzeleza" Andrić's writing entered a new phase. It was the first of his Bosnian stories and Bosnia has dominated his creative writing, with few exceptions, up to the present time. The profoundly lyrical tone of his early writing has disappeared. On the contrary, there is an almost conscious effort on Andrić's part to step aside from existence, to objectivise his experiences, to enter into them through the medium of others. On the surface this might lead one to consider him as a realist and a regional writer. That he is nothing of the sort may be seen by examining certain general features of his style as well as the development of his treatment of the problem of existence in his stories between the two world wars and in his novels and post-war stories.

Already in Nemiri, in the stories "Beca" and "Priča iz Japana", Andrić had begun to use material outside his own personal lyrical sphere to express experience. In the latter he adopted the form of the parable. In taking as his hero Alija Djerzelez, the Moslem version of Kraljevi Marko, Andrić is obviously continuing this use of a hero who is himself an image, a symbol and, in some cases, even an allegorical figure. Yet, Andric sets the very beginning of the story in a crowd typical of Bosnian life of the period, emphasising the everyday reality in which the events take place. His description of Djerzelez is a careful affirmation of the folk-song figure followed by a denial of it.

Among the last to arrive was Djerzelez. The song had preceded him. On a white horse, he rode with bloodshot eyes along the plain. The red tassels beat on the horse's eyes and Djerzelez's long, open sleeves gleamed and fluttered in the wind.

Very little imagination is necessary to see, transferred into Andrić's calm, detached prose, something of the typical folk epic description:

Pred njim je Boško Jugoviću,
Na alatu, vas a čistom zlatu,
Krstaš ga je barjak poklopio,
Pobratime, do konja alata;
Na barjaku od zlata jabuka,
Iz jabuka od zlata krstovi,
0d krstova zlatne kite vise
Te kucaju Bošku po plečima.

Immediately after this passage Djerzelez dismounts both physically and symbolically. He walks 'slowly and with straddling legs', he is 'extraordinarily thick-set and short'. 'Now, when he had dismounted from his horse, as from some pedestal, people began to lose their terror and respect, as if he had become equal with others'. The significance of the rest of the story showing Djerzelez as the tragic prisoner of his frustrated sexual lust is already presaged in this description. There are no heroes only little, bewildered men.

Such stories as "Mustafa Madjar" show the same features of legend. The sense of legend and myth is indeed rarely far removed from Andrić's stories. Many are implied to be tales of events that have become part of the locality's tradition, events regularly spoken of among the people. Such stories as "Anikina vremena" and "Priča o vezirovom slonu" are partly mythical in tone despite the realism with which they are written. In Na Drini ćuprija Andrić shows how the myth of the crni arapin who hides in the bridge and frightens children arose from the young moor who was crushed by a falling block. The twin children walled up in the bridge's structure are related to the delusions of a madwoman. It is what Džadžić calls Andrić's constant linking of myth and reality.7

Directly linked with the element of legend in Andrić's works is his use of history. His attitude to history is perhaps typical of the relationship between external reality and subjective experience throughout his work. Many of his stories and two of his novels are based on historical events and are unified by the flow of history. The authenticity of this historical approach has been revealed by Midhat Šamić in his interesting examination of the historical sources of Travnićka hronika;8 he shows that Andrić kept extraordinarily close to the facts as revealed by the memoirs of the real de Fossés and the actual French and Austrian consuls. Many of the characters of his early the stories and the novel Na Drini ćuprija actually lived.9 Moreover, if one takes a general view of his entire work, its link, direct and indirect, with history is obvious. But this does not mean that Andrić is a historical novelist. History, for him, is rather the flow of change. In Travnička hronika and Na Drini ćuprija it is the connecting link between the characters and events that form the body of the novel. The link between Andrić's idea of change and stability and history may be seen if one compares the symbol of the hills in Nemiri (Bregovi) and the story "Rzavski bregovi" (published in 1924) where the same symbol occurs but in the light of historical change. The Austrians come in 1878, cut down the trees, scare off the wild game, mine the hills to make a railway tunnel and change the life of the kasaba with their trade and new laws. Yet after 1918 the tunnel falls in and the hills revert to much what they were before. At the same time Andrić depicts how the people gradually absorb change. At first they oppose it, spreading wild rumours of a curse on anyone attempting to alter the eternal contours of their beloved hills, only later to accept the new life with its changed conditions and its new people as part of their own organic character, its events as part of their legend. Change is shown as only superficial. The kernel of existence remains intact. The same idea is repeated in Na Drini ćuprija with the building of the bridge which is at first opposed by the people, both Moslem and Christian, but which later becomes the hub of the kasaba. The resistance to and then acceptance of change are regarded by Andrić as a process. History works in two ways—by physical changes and by the accumulation of legend which, for Andrić, serves as a subjective collective memory. In this way legend, whether directly presented as such or merely as the memories of a locality or a person other than the author, is a highly objective form of expression compared with the lyrical, personal style of Nemiri.

In many of his stories, whether belonging to the earlier or later period of his writings, Andrić shows a deliberate stepping back from his own subjective approach. Stylistically this is apparent in the device of employing a narrator. Narration is sometimes only implicit, as in the stories based on the life of Fra Marko ("U zindanu", "U musafirhani", "Kod kazana", "Ispoved") where Andrić implies that these are episodes heard from the brethren of Marko's monastery or, at least, familiar anecdotes about a well-known personality. In other stories Andrić employs a narrator as, for example, in those told directly by Fra Petar, one of his best known characters, who, however, appears largely through his narration and his function as narrator. Yet Fra Petar too serves a double purpose. A monk who is a clockmaker and bed-ridden, his cell filled with the ticking of his clocks and piled with tools, he is also a symbol dominating the meaning of the stories he tells. ("Trup", "Čaša", "U vodenici".) In this way Andrić objectivises the experience he expresses directly in his earlier work. In one of his latest stories, Prokleta avlija, the scheme of narration becomes still more complicated. The story itself is told by Fra Petar, beginning with an account of his death. Contemplating the passing of this well-loved figure from the monastery, Rastislav, a young novice, recalls the story as told to him by Petar in odd moments 'like a man for whom time no longer had any significance'. Then the tale as told by Petar becomes the tale told to Petar by Haim which again becomes the personal history of the mysterious Camil told to Haim by Ćamil himself.

A more important device used by Andrić for stepping back from the personal is that nowhere does he present individual experience as the sole form of experience. Always there is a sense of a collective situation. The collective experience, with its mass character, is represented in many of his stories by constant reference to the feelings and reactions of the group. 'People were dazed by wonder and fear' ("Rzavski bregovi"); 'Older people remember' ("Nemirna godina"); 'the rumour that the bridge could not be built spread far and wide, passed on both by Turk and Christian, and grew more and more into a firmly held conviction' (Na Drini ćuprija). In "Priča o vezirovom slonu" Andrić begins by stating that Bosnia is dominated by '. . . those oriental lies of which the Turkish proverb says they are truer than any truth' and likens their subtlety and evasiveness to the speckled trout of the Bosnian streams. The rumours of the bazaar, legends, the collective reaction and the collective memory serve as a background, a general condition for story-telling.

It is this presence of the collective in many of Andrić's works that makes it possible to determine the real rôle of history where it appears in his stories and novels. History is not an end in itself but an essential means, a dimension of reality. Whether one considers Travnička hronika which covers only a few years (1807-1814) or Na Drini ćuprija which covers several centuries, history is really serving as a means of taking a wider view of existence, not spatially but temporally. As the description of nature fills the rôle of spatial dimension with most authors, so, with Andrić, history adds the dimension of time which, for him, is an essential one in which to view individual and collective human fate. History is not therefore a period defined by the historian, with its characteristic traits and events, nor is Andrić concerned to conjure up the past; for him it is time, the constant flow of change that is a condition of human existence.10 Thus in Andrić's works history is really inseparable from nature, geographical features, economic conditions and their effect on human character. History as the dimension of time and the collective as an organic entity are best understood in Andrić's works if they are grasped as being a unity with nature and natural conditions forming the whole complex of existence. Examples of this are the opening of the novel Na Drini ćuprija or the stories "Olujaci" and "Nemirna godina" and many others. Here it is perhaps sufficient to quote the beginning of the story "Ljubav u kasabi":

The kasaba lay in a ravine. The Rzav hills together with the cliffs of Olujak and the Lještana slope enclosed it in a high, almost regular circle whose diameter was scarcely more than half an hour's walk. It stood on a sandy and much inundated estuary, between two mountain rivers of uncertain flow that threatened it and laid it waste by flood at least twice a year, so constricted by the range of hills that its last houses leant on their slopes, stricken in summer by drought, in winter by avalanches and in spring by sudden frosts.

Were it not for the stone bridge, the most important stage on the route east, no town would ever have arisen at such a place and under such conditions. So, in this kasaba, created by necessity and the desire for gain, and not by favourable conditions and natural development, life was not easy for anyone. Never since its beginning, had there been a peaceful existence, security or even a single whole year of happiness. People profited, it is true, but wealth was never displayed or enjoyed for, once gained, it had to be hidden to be retaken each day and served more as a guarantee against the years of insecurity and want that would always come.

The enclosed view, the poor earth, the wild climate, the frequent wars and pillaging had given the town-children an aggressive and maniacal appearance.

In this passage, typical of many introductions to Andrić's stories, history is combined with nature and human character in a harmony that expresses the unity informing the physiognomy of the life described. This is the opposite approach to that of Nemiri. It proceeds from the perimeter to the centre rather than from the centre, the individual subjective, outwards. The description involves both space and time.

Andrić, however, does more than express existence in time and space relations. He also sees it as a process of which time is but one characteristic. The individual is thus often approached from his perimeter—humanity. Humanity is, for Andrić, another aspect of the general process of existence. Thus his descriptions of mass action take on the tone of descriptions of animal life in the mass, a swarm of bees, a migration of lemmings. In "Mara milosnica" the riot follows an instinctive pattern; "All seemed to take place automatically. The mob poured itself into a ready mould.' The same happens in Travnička hronika where the riot arises out of the mass alternation between fear and hatred, inducing in the mind of the reader a parallel with the alternation of light and darkness. The shutters in the čarija are clanged down and the noise is the herald of rioting, just as a rustle or stirring may herald some mass animal migration, swarm or stampede. It is in the framework of this approach to existence as a unified process that Andrić's use of history must be seen, if its real significance is to be grasped.

Andrić's objectivisation of his individual experience of existence shows to some extent in the style of his description. The scarcity of dialogue in his works has been noted by various critics.11 His language often suggests the cold observer who, no matter what the event, stands away from it and calmly describes it with all the force of an exact and disinterested choice of words. Yet this is only partly the truth. In fact Andrić's language remains in essence the poetic, evocative language of Ex ponto and Nemiri. There is the same reliance on imagery, on metaphor and simile. Yet approaching man from the perimeter of general existence, subjective feeling is very often portrayed through physical description. Thus the psychological is often suggested through the physical, through movements, clothing, facial expression. So, in describing the growing sense of terror that drives Mustafa Madjar insane, it is the physical that is emphasised:

Then when in half-sleep he extinguished all memory and all thoughts of the morrow, lying, a huddled body with the darkness of the night upon him like a dumb millstone, then did the rapid shudders begin to course down his legs and fear rose in the soft flesh under his heart and terror spread all about him like a cold stream of air.

Despite the physical terms used, the subjective experience is implicitly there in two similes. In Travnička hronika, the miserliness of the vizier's treasurer Baki, which is an expression of fear and hatred rather than ordinary meanness, is portrayed through Baki's physical appearance:

He was a short, stout man, beardless and browless, with thin yellow, transparent skin that seemed as if it were filled not with bone and muscle but with air or some colourless liquid. His sallow cheeks were swollen and drooping like bags. Above them swam two restless eyes, like a small child's, but ever worried and suspicious.

It is Andrić's attention to physical appearance and reaction together with the effect of the surrounding atmosphere that produces the horror of the impaling scene in Na Drini ćuprija, perhaps one of the most horrifying passages in literature. Here Andrić places the reader, as it were, among the horror-struck spectators:

This, the worst part of the executioner's duty, was fortunately not visible to the spectators. They saw only how the bound body shuddered at the short, imperceptible stab of the knife, how it raised itself from the waist, as though about to stand upright, only to slump back...

(The entire section is 12830 words.)

Vasa D. Mihailovich (essay date 1966)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Basic World View in the Short Stories of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. X, No. 2, Summer, 1966, pp. 173-77.

[In the following essay, Mihailovich discusses the defining characteristics of Andrić's short stories.]

Ivo Andrić settled upon the short story as the genre most appropriate to him very early in his literary career. The main features of his narrative style are already discernible in his first stories and there is relatively little change in his basic world view or in his literary craftsmanship during the five decades of his development. Even his early works, poems in prose, and later his novels reveal his predilection...

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John Simon (review date 1968)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "Bosnia through the Ages," in New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1968, pp. 4, 31.

[In the following favorable review of The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories, Simon lauds Andrić as "a master of the unspoken."]

Ivo Andrić is a master of the unspoken. Other writers may go further in giving expression to the ideas and cognitions of man. But whatever is dark and indefinable, too deep for psychologizing to label, is caught in Andrić's fictions—caught not the way a dead butterfly is pinned to our consciousness, but as some terrible beast is tracked to its lair, to be heard and occasionally glimpsed, but never handled and catalogued. If greatness can...

(The entire section is 895 words.)

Albert Lord (review date 1968)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tales of a Seer Between Two Worlds," in Saturday Review, Vol. LI, No. 31, August 3, 1968, p. 22.

[In the following review, Lord provides a laudatory assessment of The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories]

Publication of Ivo Andrić's The Pasha's Concubine and Other Stories marks a significant milestone in the opening up of Yugoslav literature to the English-speaking world. Hitherto we have had available a few isolated works, but not enough by which to judge any single author. It is true that Andric's three novels have been translated, but his strength lies in the short story and the novella, and only three or four of those have been readily...

(The entire section is 1189 words.)

Thomas Eekman (essay date 1970)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Later Stories of Ivo Andrić," in The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. XLVIII, No. 112, July, 1970, pp. 341-56.

[In the following essay, Eekman refutes the idea that Andrić's later stories are pessimistic in nature, maintaining that hope can be found in his work.]

Ivo Andrić acquired his fame as the most outstanding modern Yugoslav prose writer primarily because of his short stories set in old Bosnia, written in the 1920s and 1930s, and his Bosnian novels, published after the second world war. It is generally held that his 'Bosnian' prose is superior to his works on other themes; and the Nobel prize for literature, awarded him in 1961, honoured...

(The entire section is 7531 words.)

John Loud (essay date 1974)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "Between Two Worlds: Andrić the Storyteller," in Review of National Literatures: The Multinational Literature of Yugoslavia, edited by Albert B. Lord, Vol. V, No. 1, Spring, 1974, pp. 112-26.

[In the following essay, Loud surveys the major themes of Andric's short fiction]

When he accepted the Nobel Prize in literature in 1961, Ivo Andrić took pains to describe himself as a storyteller above all else. Though his international stature at that time, certainly in England and America, was doubtless attributable to the three novels written between 1941 and 1944 at the midpoint in his career, in his native land it was Andrić's work in the short story that had...

(The entire section is 5927 words.)

Vida Taranovski Johnson (essay date 1980)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "Bosnia Demythologized: Character and Motivation in Ivo Andrić's Stories Mara milosnica and O starim i mladim Pamukovićima," in Die Welt der Sloven, Vol. 25, No. 1,1980, pp. 98-108.

[In the following essay, Johnson examines Andrić's changing portrayal of Bosnia by comparing his early story "Mara the Concubine" to his later story, "About the Old and Young Pamukovićes."]

Ivo Andrić was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961 for the "epic force" with which he presented the history of his land. The stories and novels about Bosnia occupy a position of central importance in his fiction and reflect most clearly its development in both...

(The entire section is 4004 words.)

Vida Taranovski Johnson (essay date 1980)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "Ivo Andrić's Kuća na osami (The House in a Secluded Place): Memories and Ghosts of the Writer's Past," in Fiction and Drama in Eastern and Southeastern Europe: Evolution and Experiment in the Postwar Period, edited by Henrik Birnbaum and Thomas Eekman, Slavica Publishers, 1980, pp. 239-50.

[In the following essay, Johnson urges a reassessment of Andrić's later fiction, and views the stories and sketches that comprise Lica as an important predecessor to Kuća na osami.]

When he died in 1975 at the age of 82, Ivo Andrić had been Yugoslavia's foremost writer for three decades. He was a national institution. Recognized as a talented...

(The entire section is 6361 words.)

Vanita Singh Mukerji (essay date 1990)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Little Men in 'Bar Titanic'," in Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography, McFarland & Company, 1990, pp. 123-30.

[In the following essay, Mukerji perceives "Bar Titanic'" as Andrić's commentary on Nazi atrocities during World War II]

Pieced together from coarse slices of Bosnian life, the grim realities of the Nazi offensive and the Independent State of Croatia (in which Bosnia-Hercegovina was included), Andrić's "Bar 'Titanic'" is an arresting story. Its protagonists are representative of different species of victims and tormentors: Jew and Ustasha together contribute the ironic nuances of a Yugoslav tragedy in a Sarajevo bar.


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Celia Hawkesworth (essay date 1992)

(Short Story Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to The Damned Yard and Other Stories, edited by Celia Hawkesworth, Forest Books, 1992, pp. v-ix.

[In the following essay, Hawkesworth offers a thematic overview of the stories comprising The Damned Yard and Other Stories.]

This selection of Andrić's short stories and the novella The Damned Yard highlights a number of recurrent themes from his work. Their primary setting is Bosnia, where Andrić spent the formative years of his life: he was born in Travnik on 9th October 1892, he spent his childhood in ViSegrad, near the border with Serbia, and his secondary school years in Sarajevo. Travnik, which was the seat of Ottoman power in...

(The entire section is 1896 words.)

Further Reading

(Short Story Criticism)

Butler, Thomas. "Ivo Andrić: a 'Yugoslav' Writer." Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture, pp. 117-21. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991.

Investigates the changing dialect of Andrić's work and whether the shift was politically motivated.

Christowe, Stoyan. "Guilt, Sin, Above All, Fear." New York Times Book Review (October 28, 1962): 4.

Provides a mixed review of The Vizier's Elephant and Devil's Yard.

Ginsburg, Michael. "Voice from a Bosnian Inferno." Saturday Review 45, No. 47 (November 24, 1962): 31-2....

(The entire section is 184 words.)