Stochastic Bookmark

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Disquiet on the Drina

Ivo Andrić’s The Bridge on the Drina stands as a monument over the turbulent flow of Bosnian, Balkan, and world history. Antinomic, not necessarily bivalent but necessarily ambivalent, it chronicles the incursions of distant influences, starting with the bridge itself, on a community divided by religious heritage into mutual otherness. The bridge, a 16th century bequest of Mehmed Pasha (local boy made good), becomes, especially the kapia (gate) suspended between river and sky at its enlarged center, the center of the predominantly but not exclusively Turkic and Serbian community, each of which invests it with their own myths. Andrić performs an impressive balancing act (likened to dancing across the bridge's parapet, twice) between these perspectives (fearful and hopeful) against the encroachments of modernity and the Austrians (Schwabes), buttressed by a structure of symmetries that open the novel to ambiguous interpretations: for example, the intertwined fates of the bridge with Mehmed Pasha and caretaker Alihodja Mutevelić, or the forced departures of the former and of Nicola Glasicanin, after but not caused by his falling out with a childhood friend revisiting from university. This elaborates larger events, as vanities of nationalism collide with inexorable historical dialectic, and as distance, as community, collapses, as one decrepit empire supplants another, as Time erodes despite the acceleration of events (while the text contrarily expands with time's passage). But Andrić seems to have anticipated that his book would also become a ground for interpretive infusion; the permanent dedicatory inscription on the bridge is supplemented with more transitory imperial notices of royal deaths and changes in political administration, while the local schoolmaster writes his own chronicle of the town, abbreviated by the unimportance of events in relation to his own self-regard. Ending with the beginning of WWI, written during WWII, it was reappropriated in the 90's as Yugoslavia fragmented, and even now the post-mortems continue, again reappropriately:

"Living in the shadow of the bridge", Marina Antić
"No Man's Land: The Intersection of Balkan Space and Identity", Ana-Marija Petrunic

Meanwhile, the work stands, however undermined, like the bridge itself.


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