The Bridge on the Drina

Review

a Na Drini cuprija Velika 1The novel is written quickly, between July 1942 and December 1943. An outline of some fifty pages has been preserved, as well as jotting treating various aspects of the subject matter. For instance, “The Bridge on the Žepa” forms part of this preliminary process.

“The Bridge on the Drina” is the cronicle of a small town, and in particular of the focal point of that town: the bridge over the river Drina. The town is Višegrad on the eastern edge of Bosnia, near the border of Serbia. The chronicle traces its history from the sixteenth century to the First World War, and uses the bridge to bind the individual chapters and stories together. The emphasis is on the evolution of a common mentality in the town, deriving from common experience and a common heritage of legend and anecdote. The population of the town is mixed, but Andrić chooses in this case to stress the coherence of the whole. This is achieved partly by the time-scale, but also by Andrić's basic intention in the work. This is to contrast the transience and insignificance of individual human life with the broader perspective of life as itself enduring, a constant ebThe first page of the novel The Bridge on the Drinab and flow. On this level the bridge provides not only a structural but also a symbolic link.

Each chapter or anecdote is in some way connected with the bridge. It is the focal point of the town, and most important events occur on or near it. a Prva str Most na drini 1Such an apparently simple structural function contributes also to the main direction of the work, which depicts the growth, from a series of disparate events, of a common heritage.

Na Drini cuprijaThe movement of the cronicle through the four centuries it describes is not steady. The first event of major importance to the people of Višegrad, the building of the bridge in the mid-sixteenth century, is described in detail over three chapters; the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when no important historical events affected the town, pass by in a single chapter; the nineteenth century covers ten chapters, and the years from 1900 to 1914, the remainder of the work, further nine chapters. Such a scheme allows the author to describe the main events affecting the life of the town in detail and also suggest an awareness of history as never uniformly well-konown or related. The static nature of the centuries of Ottoman rule is then highlighted by the changes which take place during the nineteenth century and increase in speed and scope with Austrian annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina at the end of that century. The clearest implication of the broad time-scale is the predictable one in Andrić’s work: that, for all these events and changes, nothing of significance alters.

“The Bridge on the Drina” can be seen as a portrait of history itself. History is made as much by individual personalities as by mass movements and the upheavals created by the rise and fall of empires.