His writings dealt mainly with life in his native Bosnia under Ottoman rule. As the authorities were unable to build a strong case against him, he spent much of the war under house arrest , only being released following a general amnesty for such cases in July After the war, he studied South Slavic history and literature at universities in Zagreb and Graz , eventually attaining his Ph. He worked in the diplomatic service of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from to and again from to In , he became Yugoslavia's ambassador to Germany , but his tenure ended in April with the German-led invasion of his country.
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Vasa D. Mihailovich University of North Carolina. Loud Durham, N. In short stories and several novels he presents the people of Bosnia, a small area in the heart of Europe, with several nationalities and four religions. He documents its long, mostly turbulent history with a plethora of remarkable characters.
By immortalizing them, he has thrown light on this region that has so often erupted in violence and internecine struggle. Both his parents were Catholics. Because of his radical nationalistic activities, he was arrested by the Austrians as a member of the revolutionary group Young Bosnia and spent three years in prison.
He was released in because of poor health and a lack of evidence against him. In prison he wrote his first work, a book of prose poems, Ex Panto , followed two years later by a similar volume, Nemiri Unrest.
In he was a vice consul in Graz but was in danger of losing his position because he had not completed his university studies. He returned to diplomatic service, throughout which he continued to write. In the first twenty years of his literary career, he wrote almost exclusively short fiction, settling early upon the short story as the genre most appropriate to him.
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. The narrow region of Bosnia, however, widens by implication into the whole country, indeed the entire world. He often portrays Catholic characters also, whereas the third large group, the Orthodox Jews, remains somewhat in the background.
For that reason many of his stories, as well as his novels, are called chronicles. In his treatment of minute detail he is scrupulously faithful to the historical sources, but he gives them artistic form.
He is trying to solve the riddles of human existence by reference to the legends of the past. His constant journeys into the past do not signify an escape from the present reality but rather a keen understanding of the unity of time and space in the history of the Bosnian people. They seem to have difficulty in coming to an understanding with their fellowman.
Life in a kasaba is torpid, desolate, and bleak. Strong individuals are condemned to futility and withering away. When their pent-up passion or frustration erupts, these individuals come to a tragic end, pulling others into the abyss as well.
His characters show an immense capacity for suffering. Sporadic happiness is but an illusion. The disparity between their powers and the limited opportunities provided by their surroundings drives them mad. A legendary Bosnian figure a hero of popular Muslim ballads , Alija vacillates between reality and dream, action and futility. The fact that he subjugates everything to his insatiable sexual drive underscores the frustration of his strong personality.
Thus, stark, drab reality clashes once more with the delicate, peculiarly refined world of a Bosnian Don Quixote who, almost invariably, ends up misunderstood and miserable.
One by one they succumb to their fate, although not without a fierce struggle. This fear is often coupled with a vague feeling of guilt for having been born and for being what one is.
The guilt complex assumes many forms. Entirely blameless people are punished, sometimes even only for thinking about an evil deed or for trying to avoid it. Hatred in the people of Bosnia sometimes reaches pathological proportions. He ultimately dies a senseless death at the hands of a decrepit gypsy. The hatred is not always so spontaneous and irrational. Sometimes it is deliberately fostered by the conflicting variety of nationalities, races, and religions, which, under specific historical circumstances, pits one segment of the population against another or against all the rest.
He firmly believes that there exists an unknown formula that governs the relationship between joys and sorrows. He conceives of life as a constant struggle between the opposites in nature, especially in the human soul.
If a clarification of the apparent senselessness of human existence cannot be obtained, there is still hope in a struggle against evil, no matter how futile such efforts may seem.
His favorite metaphor in this respect is a bridge that connects opposites: myth and reality, the unlimited and limited, East and West. A manifest proof of human vitality and indestructibility amid apparent contradiction and decay in nature, a bridge is also a lasting monument of the human quest for art and beauty.
It is not by reason and force that man conquers fate but by synthesis, silence, and beauty. Aska, a young lamb, has lost its way in the woods and is confronted by a hungry wolf. The lamb begins to dance a highly artistic pantomime, which so intrigues the wolf that he not only forgets to eat the lamb but remains transfixed until he is ultimately slain.
Hitler captured Yugoslavia in less than two weeks. He completed three novel sand published them in , the first postwar Yugoslav publications after the victory over the Germans.
The novel is replete with details about the life of the Bosnians under the Turkish occupation. The most important is the so-called blood tribute, a practice of the Turkish rulers during the several hundred years of their occupation of the Balkans. In memory of his childhood, he decided to build a bridge across the Drina River by the town of Visegrad, the last place where he had seen his mother when he was taken away.
The building of the bridge began in , using slave labor conscripted in the Serbian villages nearby. The peasants not only resented having to work as slaves but also saw in the building of the bridge a sinister symbol of the Turkish might.
For that reason they resisted its progress, often destroying at night what was built during the day. To frighten the distrusting and rebellious populace into submission and obedience, the builder Abidaga caught one of them, Radisav, and had him impaled at the site of the bridge. The excruciatingly painful process lasted several days. The bridge was completed in , a beautiful structure of eleven archesrising above the turbulent Drina, with a kapia —an elevated fixture in the middle of the bridge where people can sit and talk while drinking coffee— as a focal point.
A caravansary was also built next to the bridge for tired travelers. Thus began the long influence of the bridge on every aspect of the lives of the people on the shores, who finally resigned them selves to it and learned even to like it because of its usefulness and its uncommon beauty. Mehmed Pasha was stabbed to death by a deranged dervish only a few years after the completion.
Although he had accomplished many other things as a vizier, his name in Bosnia will forever be remembered by this bridge. No matter how unquiet the waters that pass beneath the smooth and perfect arches of the bridge, nothing changes the bridge itself. It becomes a focal point of life in the town and surrounding villages. The story is completely historical. The bridge was blown up during World War I, but it was rebuilt just as it was, and still stands.
Even his doctoral thesis reveals his passion for history. It is a broadly conceived panorama of cultural changes brought about by the Turkish reign and of the multicultural and multireligious state resulting from it. It also depicts inevitable and multifaceted conflicts in the area. The novel is, therefore, a good source of general information about Bosnia, although not a substitute for a scholarly history. Considering the constant changes taking place around the bridge, its permanence serves as a comforting and life-affirming value.
The inborn need of man to express himself in arts found its fulfillment in the creation of this beautiful edifice that defies transience. The final symbolic interpretation of the bridge lies in its spanning the two shores, as if connecting two worlds, the East and the West, and different nationalities, religions, and cultures of Bosnia.
Travnik was an administrative seat at the westermost border of the Ottoman Empire and the residence of a vizier. The facts that the French had occupied nearby Dalmatia and that the Turks had been forced to retreat from Hungary made Travnik important beyond its true political and strategic value.
This act, in turn, prompted the Austrians to send their own consul, Josef von Mitterer. Both find themselves under the constant vigil of the distrustful Turks.
Non-Turkish inhabitants welcome them in their own ways: Catholic Croats are friendly toward their neighbor, von Mitterer, while shunning Daville; the Jews, of whom there is a small number, like Daville; while the Orthodox Serbs distrust both, pinning their hopes on Russia, which is expected to send their consul also.
Yet, they are all powerless under the Turkish domination. Daville, a middle-aged diplomat who writes classical poetry and tries to keep the semblance of civilization in a backwater town where the lifestyle resembles that of the Middle Ages , finds it difficult to function, yet he endures for the sake of his idol Napoleon Bonaparte and for the glory of France. Von Mitterer has it some what easier since Bosnia is closer to Austria, and the non-Turkish population is more sympathetic. Both of them, however, have to deal primarily with Turkish viziers, who wield all power and can thwart all their efforts by various means.
The work of the two Western consuls is further complicated by the necessity of playing against each other. The entire novel chronicles the lives and endeavors of these participants in world politics in a most unlikely place. The main theme of the novel is the contrast between the West and the East.
The comparatively enlightened world of the West, represented by the consuls, is countered by the backward, mysterious, dark world of the East as it existed in the Turkish empire. Even though the opposing sides are not in an open conflict, the behavior of the players involved points to a tacit rivalry that is just as intense.
The distrust with which the Westerners are met, not only by the Turkish officials but also by the people on the street, can only be explained by a deep-seated enmity. The antagonism goes beyond the political and national differences; it goes to the core of the way of life and thinking of the two worlds. Philosophical fatalism, resignation, deep mistrust of everything foreign, and a basic disregard for the rights of individuals—considered normal among the people of the East and the Turkish Empire—are pitted against the more open, compassionate, rational, and law-oriented ways of the West.
This focus, in turn, adds a special dimension to the novel. In all of his works he is at his best when he illuminates the deepest recesses of the minds and hearts of his protagonists, no matter to what race, nationality, class, or creed they belong. This approach makes the novel more interesting than if it were strictly an historical chronicle.
Thus, Travnik, its historical significance at the time notwithstanding, becomes a backdrop for several human dramas that make up the core of the novel.
In the last analysis, however, the actions of the characters are futile, because everything is decided for them elsewhere; the actors are like puppets directed by remote control, so to speak, achieving little by themselves as far as history is concerned. Another important theme is the role of women in the novel. Furthermore, the universal meaning of the novel can be seen as the need for perseverance in a hopeless, dead-end situation.
Furthermore, just as the bridge on the Drina is the symbol of bridging the differences between worlds, Travnik is a symbol of the kasaba in the backwaters of an empire, where little is happening, yet people continue to strive against all odds. His mastery of a penetrating psychological study of his characters against the backdrop of events over which they have little control, yet somehow survive and move forward, has reached in Travnicka hronika its highest peak.
She has lived alone with her mother since she was fifteen, when her beloved father, a well-known businessman from Sarajevo, died bankrupt and in disgrace.
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