Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Woman from Sarajevo was the third novel by Ivo Andri written in Belgrade in a relatively short span of time, during his enforced retirement in World War II. After writing Na Drini cuprija (1945; The Bridge on the Drina, 1959) and Travnicka hronika (1945; Bosnian Story, 1958; better known as Bosnian Chronicle, 1963), which are artistically superior and much more expansive works, it is understandable that in The Woman from Sarajevo Andri shows signs of narrowing the scope and moving inward. One would be tempted to think that Andri wrote this novel as a form of relaxation after his previous lengthy novels, but the intense concentration on one character and on a single theme requires as much energy. While the two other novels in many ways surpass The Woman from Sarajevo, there are some qualities that make this work a worthy companion to its predecessors: the concentration on one character and the resulting depth; the brilliant penetration into the psyche of a woman unusual in many ways; the strange attachment to this character, an attitude that Andri has shown in few other works; and the attention to the more modern era, whereas most of Andri’s work dwells in the distant past. For these reasons, this novel, though less acclaimed critically than most of Andri’s other works, has a significance and charm of its own. It is indeed a worthy detail in the panoramic mural of Andri’s world that continues to intrigue and enchant his readers.