Ivo Andrić Andrić, Ivo (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism) - Essay


(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Ivo Andrić 1892-1975

Yugoslavian short story writer, novelist, poet, and essayist.

The following entry provides criticism on Andrić's works from 1978 through 1998. For criticism prior to 1978, see CLC, Volume 8.

Ivo Andrić, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1961, is widely considered to be the most important Yugoslavian writer of the twentieth century. He produced critically acclaimed works in several genres, particularly novels and short stories, most of which are set in Bosnia and explore the tragic nature of the human condition, reflecting especially the political and social turbulence of his native land.

Biographical Information

Andrić was born in Trávnik, Bosnia, on October 9, 1892, to a Croatian family. When his father died of tuberculosis in 1894, the family moved to Višegrad, a small town with a well-known bridge that spanned the river Drina; bridges would become a recurring symbol in his 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 Poland. 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 of Austria in Sarajevo in 1914—the event that led to the outbreak of World War I—Andrić was arrested and imprisoned for three years. The case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence, and he was released in 1917. Andrić returned to Zagreb, where he entered the diplomatic service in 1920. Throughout his career he was posted in several European cities, and he continued in his official capacity after the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes united with Serbia, Montenegro, Vojvodina, and Kosovo to form Yugoslavia in 1929. In 1938 Andrić was serving as ambassador to Nazi Germany in Berlin and was disappointed when Yugoslavia signed the tripartite pact, which pledged support to Italy and Germany in the military and political action that would become World War II. In March 1941 he resigned from his professional duties. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia ten days later, Andrić fled to Belgrade, where he lived in self-imposed isolation for the next three years, despite the eventual German occupation of the city. It was during this time that Andrić wrote what has come to be known as his Bosnian Trilogy: Gospodjica (1945; The Woman from Sarajevo), Travnička hronika (1945; Bosnian Story), and Na Drini ćuprija (1945; The Bridge on the Drina). With the end of World War II 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. In later works the explicit nature of the violence is often muffled, but cruelty and brutality are often 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 prison memoir, Ex ponto (1918) and in his stories, including “The Bridge of the Žepa” and the novella Prokleta avlija (1954; The Damned Yard). Yet Andrić's stories are not always pure gloom; some of his best-known characters—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. In his Bosnian Trilogy Andrić attempted to present a more complete history of his homeland, beginning with The Woman from Sarajevo, which deals with the conflicting cultural influences that created the land then known as Yugoslavia and the resulting bourgeois amorality and irresponsibility. In Bosnian Story—which has also been translated into English and published as Bosnian Chronicle and The Days of the Consuls—Andrić focused on the conflicts that arose between the French and Austrian consulates during the Napoleonic era as they vied to win the favor of the Turkish vizier and the support of the local townspeople. Critics have also noted that the novel dramatizes the clash between East and West, with Bosnia representing in microcosm the centuries-long struggle between the Muslim and Christian worlds. While The Woman from Sarajevo deals with social conditions in mid-twentieth-century Yugoslavia and Bosnian Story covers seven years in the early nineteenth, The Bridge on the Drina spans more than three centuries in the history of the region, beginning with the Turks' construction of a bridge over the Drina River in Višegrad and continuing until shortly before World War I. The bridge, it has been noted, serves throughout as an image of constancy in a turbulent world.

Critical Reception

Critics have praised Andrić's objective exploration of conflict, war, brutality, and hatred. 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 use of diverse themes, characters, narrative styles, literary forms, ideology, and moods proves his versatility and facility as an author. Commentators have noted the influence of such writers as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Soren Kierkegaard, and Albert Camus.

Principal Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

Ex ponto (memoir) 1918

Nemiri (poetry) 1919

Pripovetke 3 vols. (short stories) 1924-36

Gospodjica [The Woman from Sarajevo] (novel) 1945

Travnička hronika [Bosnian Story; also translated as Bosnian Chronicle and The Days of the Consuls] (novel) 1945

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

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

Pod grabičem: Pripovetke o životu bosanskog sela (short stories) 1952

Prokleta avlija [The Damned Yard; also translated as The Devil's Yard] (novella) 1954

Lica (sketches and short stories) 1960

Ljubav u kasabi (novel) 1963

Sabrana djela Ive Andrica 10 vols. (collected works) 1963

The Pasha's Concubine and Other Tales (short stories) 1968

Anikina vremena (short stories) 1970

Eseji I kritike (essays) 1976

Knća na osami (short stories) 1976

Znakovi pored puta (diaries) 1976

Wegzeichen (nonfiction) 1982

Letters (letters) 1984

Mateja Matejic (essay date 1978)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Matejic, Mateja. “Elements of Folklore in Andrić's Na Drini ćuprija.Canadian Slavonic Papers: An Inter-Disciplinary Quarterly Devoted to the Soviet Union 20 (1978): 348-57.

[In the following essay, Matejic finds that Andrić's use of elements of folklore in his works goes beyond adaptation and is instead a full-fledged “literarization” of traditional folk stories.]

If the presence of folklore elements in the prose of two of the greatest Serbian writers, Petar Petrović-Njegoš and Ivo Andrić, is no more than a coincidence, it is a very interesting one. A close study of their works, however, reveals that the presence of folklore in them is...

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Celia Hawkesworth (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawkesworth, Celia. “Short Stories.” In Ivo Andrić: Bridge between East and West, pp. 68-122. Dover, N.H.: Athlone Press, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Hawkesworth looks beyond the apparent objectivity in Andrić's short stories to discover the writer's subtle insertion of his own individuality in his narratives.]

(I) 1920-41

After the personal, confessional nature of the early prose poems, the first impression conveyed by Andrić's short stories is of their objectivity. Andrić as an individual, with a particular life's path and experience, is remarkably absent from his prose fiction. But this objectivity is only on the...

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Celia Hawkesworth (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawkesworth, Celia. “Devil's Yard.” In Ivo Andrić: Bridge between East and West, pp. 189-205. Dover, N.H.: Athlone Press, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Hawkesworth addresses Andrić's examination of the nature of art in The Devil's Yard.]

More than is the case with many of Andrić's other works, the sense of Devil's Yard1 depends closely on its intricate structure.

The composition is one that Andrić had used earlier for another story in the Brother Petar group: “Torso”. It is a system of concentric circles forming successive frames, focusing increasingly on the central point of the tale. The Petar stories in any...

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Celia Hawkesworth (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hawkesworth, Celia. “Essays and Reflective Prose.” In Ivo Andrić: Bridge between East and West, pp. 206-33. Dover, N.H.: Athlone Press, 1984.

[In the following excerpt, Hawkesworth examines major themes in Andrić's nonfiction prose.]


Andrić wrote a number of essays, reviews and articles which were scattered through various newspapers and periodicals. They were not collected in book form until the writer's death, but now a good idea of the range of Andrić's interests in these writings, and their quality, can be gained from the selections published. Until recently these writings have been considered...

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Milan V. Dimić (essay date September 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Dimić, Milan V. “Ivo Andrić and World Literature.” Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes: An Interdisciplinary Journal 27, no. 3 (September 1985): 269-83.

[In the following essay, Dimić discusses Andrić's place in the “universal heritage” of literature.]

Ivo Andrić was born in Travnik in 1892, when Bosnia was still under Austrian rule; he was brought up to speak and write in the “ijekavian” form of Serbo-Croatian and educated in a Catholic and Croatian environment. As a nationalist, he was jailed by the Austro-Hungarian authorities during World War I; he later made a brilliant diplomatic career in the service of the Yugoslav...

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Felicity Rosslyn (essay date January 1989)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Rosslyn, Felicity. “The Short Stories of Ivo Andrić: Autobiography and the Chain of Proof.” Slavonic and East European Review 67, no. 1 (January 1989): 29-41.

[In the following essay, Rosslyn examines Andrić's thoughts on the nature and purpose of human testimony and autobiography.]

In most of Andrić's stories a character experiences some kind of agonizing constraint, whether from physical causes, like disease or old age, or metaphysical ones, like guilt. The character chokes on his or her sensations, and the reader chokes in sympathy—for no one is better than Andrić at arousing the feelings he describes. Some of the stories are positively unpleasant...

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Vanita Singh Mukerji (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mukerji, Vanita Singh. “Bosnian Politics and the Role of Religion in The Travnik Chronicle.” In Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography pp. 97-107. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Mukerji finds that Andrić posits in The Travnik Chronicle that religion could not have secured the state of Yugoslavia in the midst of political upheaval.]

In antiquity, the frontier between the Greek and Roman worlds ran through the territory of modern Yugoslavia. The demarcation line between East and West was fixed and more sharply defined by the division of the Roman Empire in A.D. 390. Then came the...

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Vanita Singh Mukerji (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mukerji, Vanita Singh. “The Theme of Money in The Spinster.” In Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography, pp. 109-22. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Mukerji examines The Spinster as a “study of miserliness.”]

Money circulates in all that people create and obtain, invisibly like the circulation of blood in the body, but crucially for a person and all that is human. It gives people and objects an appearance and significance, and determines life and continuance in all. It supports some in life and elevates them and so they diverge and flourish, but it spoils others and so they dry...

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Vanita Singh Mukerji (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Mukerji, Vanita Singh. “Personality and Perceptions of Reality in The Damned Yard.” In Ivo Andrić: A Critical Biography, pp. 131-39. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland and Company, Inc., 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Mukerji explores the relationship between human interaction and the individual psyche in forming perceptions of reality.]

When we form a judgment about people, their behavior and dispositions, it is necessary to bear in mind that people, for different reasons that do not depend on them, cannot speak the truth everywhere, always and about everything. Some do not see it, others see it upside down, which is the same or...

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Thomas Butler (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Butler, Thomas. “Ivo Andrić, a ‘Yugoslav’ Writer.” Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture 10, (1991): 118-21.

[In the following essay, Butler analyzes Andrić's shift from writing in his native Bosnian ijekavian dialect to the Serbian ekavian.]

Ivo Andrić, the Nobel Prize laureate for literature in 1961, author of Bridge on the Drina and Travnik Chronicle, wrote in a style that is deceptively simple, in seamless sentences in which words seem to slip into place almost by accident, a style that is so “easy” we feel we are listening to the tale of a village storyteller and not to the creation of a very wise man. As...

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Andrew Krivak (essay date 1 April 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Krivak, Andrew. “Going Back Over ‘The Bridge on the Drina’.” America 172, no. 11 (1 April 1995): 24-7.

[In the following essay, Krivak discusses The Bridge on the Drina in light of the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.]

It was three years ago, in 1992, when the ethnic nations of the one-time Federation of Yugoslavia split, staked out their own independent national territories and began the bloodshed that we in the West now numbingly refer to as “the war in Bosnia.” The siege of Sarajevo, a city in Yugoslavia once held up as a model of culture and cosmopolitanism, a city in which Muslims, Serbs and Croats all lived and worked communally,...

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Thomas Eekman (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Eekman, Thomas. “Ivo Andrić's Short Stories in the Context of the South Slavic Prose Tradition.” In Ivo Andrić Revisited: The Bridge Still Stands, edited by Wayne S. Vucinich, pp. 47-62. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, 1995.

[In the following essay, Eekman places Andrić's short stories in the context of the South Slavic literary tradition.]

In the United States and Western Europe, Ivo Andrić is considered a representative of Bosnian literature, a painter of historical Bosnian life—and to many people he is even the representative of Yugoslav—i.e., South Slavic—literature and culture. This unique position can in no way be denied...

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Radmila Gorup (essay date 1995)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gorup, Radmila. “Women in Andrić's Writing.” In Ivo Andrić Revisited: The Bridge Still Stands, edited by Wayne S. Vucinich, pp. 154-72. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California, 1995.

[In the following essay, Gorup explores the ways in which Andrić's portrayal of male-female relationships provides insights into women's psyches.]

Andrić's short stories and novels are populated with extraordinary women characters. Women are on equal terms with men in Andrić's writing. Juxtaposed with his famous male characters—for example, Djerzelez, Mustafa the Hungarian, Fra Petar, Ćamil, Ćorkan, Karadjoz, Karas, Alidede—there are women like Mara, Anika, Fata,...

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Munir Sendich (essay date September-December 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sendich, Munir. “English Translations of Ivo Andrić's Travnička Hronika.Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue Canadienne des Slavistes: An Interdisciplinary Journal 40, nos. 3-4 (September-December 1998): 379-400.

[In the following essay, Sendich provides a point-by-point comparison of all of the English translations of Travnička hronika.]


Criticism of English translations of Ivo Andrić's Travnička hronika is confined to a small number of reviews and occasional comments in periodicals praising the first two translations for their fidelity to the original.1 Kenneth Johnstone's The Bosnian Story...

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Further Reading

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)


Butler, Thomas. “Between East and West. Three Bosnian Writer-Rebels: Kočić, Andrić, Selimović.” Cross Currents: A Yearbook of Central European Culture 3 (1984): 339-57.

Traces Bosnia's heroic epic oral tradition through its transformation after the Austrian Occupation of 1878 to the early twentieth-century writers who played a role in the region's struggle for change.

Coote, Mary P. “Narrative and Narrative Structure in Ivo Andrić's Devil's Yard.Slavic and East European Journal 21 (1977): 56-63.

Examines the role of story-telling and legends in Devil's Yard.


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