Introduction

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 expirience, is remarkably absent from his prose fiction. But this objectivity is only on the surface. The many characters and situations portrayed all tend to illustrate those fundamental facts of human existence with which Andrić is concerned in his verse. The extent to which all his works are indeed part of one and the same work becomes clear as the symbolic quality of the stories emerges. Andrić’s first collection of short stories entitled “The Journey of Ali Đerzelez” was published in 1920. In the interwar period Andrić published three books of stories simply entitled as “Short stories”, in 1924, 1931 and in1936; the collection of stories “New Short Stories” in 1948, “Panorama” in 1950, “Faces” in 1960 and “The House on Its Own”, posthumously, in 1976.

The major part of his fiction consists of short stories, comprising eight volumes of the collected works if one includes the novella, “Damned Yard“, as opposed to the four novelas. The stories cover a range of themes, although many of them, and the majority of those published before the Second World War, are set in Bosnia at different points in its history. The subsequent course of Andrić's life as a diplomat is quite removed from his central interests as a writer. Some aspects of his public life are reflected in the stories published in this period but these are only settings; the the intricacies of diplomatic life and writer's own activity in it play no part..

The stories do, however, arrange themselves into groups, and this is how they have been printed in the collected works, with the author's agreement. There is, for example, one volume entitled “Children“, which contains tales concerning children or seen through their eyes. There is a whole series of stories, set in the little town of Višegrad, which are similar to the individual and more or less self-contained chapters of the novel “The Bridge on the Drina”. There are also stories connected with Sarajevo and with Travnik. In these stories set in Bosnia there is a strong sense of history, some dramatic moments recur, such as Serbian uprising of 1804 and the uprising in Višegrad in 1878. They are, mainly, written in the period 1920-1941. There are also some stories, written between 1945-1960, like pieces of fantasy which are close to Andrić's prose poetry or reflctive prose than to conventional narrative fiction.

The Journey of Alija Đerzelez

Review

Andrić’s first short story, published in 1920. Its protagonist is the hero of a large number of Moslem heroic ballads. Bearing in mind the special place accorded to “legend” and “fairy-tale” in Andrić’s statements about art, we should consider exactly what form “the grain of truth contained in legend” takes in this tale.

The traditional ballads concerned with Alija deal exclusively with his prowess on the battlefield. Andrić refers to his fame in just one sentence: "He was renowed for many battles and his fearful strength... " and immediatelly takes him off his horse, setting him down in a context where he appears awkward because he is not used to being on the ground, or to normal social interaction. His stature is a t once diminished: “In a few days the magic circle around Đerzelez had quite disappeared. “There is no clear reason why the label “hero“ should have attached itself to this particular person. He is small, unprepossessing and ungainly as soon as he dismounts, awkward and uninteresting in conversation. He is slow-witted and chronically lacking in imagination. But he is also obsessive. Once he sees a beautiful woman he can think of nothing else but possessing her. Or he abandons himself wholeheartedly to the singing of a particularly fine traditional singer: “Đerzelez felt that the singer tugging at his soul and that any moment now, he would expire, from excessive strength, or excessive weakness. “

Đerzelez can flourish only in circumstances where his simple-minded strength energy can be expressed in the immediate violent ways he understands. He is quite baffled by more intricate social relationships and by the whole deeply disturbing question of women. Andrić here exploits the comic possibilities exposing a renowned hero to the demands made on men by their ballads about Marko Kraljević

 

Ćorkan and the German Lady

The story published in 1921 can be seen as an enlarged episode of the novel "The Bridge on the Drina". Its protagonist Ćorkan, general scapegoat in Višegrad, a figure of fun who himself joins in the mockery. In this story he is shown obsessively pursuing an obviously unattainable ideal, in much the same way as Alija Đerzelez. The light and humorous tone of the story reflects Ćorkan’s personality. The object of his obsession is physically inaccessible: a tightrope walker in an Austrian circus company visiting Višegrad. The chaos caused by the circus eventually results in Ćorkan’s receiving a beating which seems to be a regular occurrence, having more to do with relieving the feelings of the official inflicting the punishment than the extent of the crime. When his wounds have healed Ćorkan emerges from the hayloft where he crawled to recover, laughing at the way he climbs down the ladder. Ćorkan’s resilience, good humor and spontaneity are always associated with the sun, the central symbol of positive forces in Andrić’s work. Indeed, the character can be seen to have grown out of the role played by the sun in Andrić’s writing.

In the Camp

Review

“Detachment of hard-breathing Tartars began to arrive more frequently....” That’s the way this story begins. It is published in 1922 as one of Andrić’s stories on Bosnia under the Turkish rule. It is rather interesting considering the main character Mula Jusuf, an eccentric and perverted man. Jusuf comes from Jedrene, finished his schooling in Istanbul, and used to work in Sarajevo where he came into conflict with prominent townsmen. That’s why pasha took him in service, in order to tease those respectful men from Sarajevo. He is one of Andrić’s aggressors, like Mustafa Madžar, a variation on the theme of an individual who inflicts suffering in the context of the systematic violence of an army. Mula Jusuf is a man with an obscure history of implication in uninvestigated acts of violence. He does not dominate the story in which he appears but remains a sinister presence in the background until the end, when he is given the task of taking a young Turkish woman, dispossessed by the war, back to her father. The pattern of his vicious behavior then reasserts itself. Alone with the woman, he forces her to strip and eventually stabs her to death.

Love in the Small Town

“Love in the Small Town” written in 1923, one of Andrić’s earliest stories, may be seen even in its title, as an introduction to the Višegrad ‘cycle’. It begins with detailed description of the geographical setting: “The town lies in a hollow. The Rzav hills, the rocks of Olujaci and the crest of Liještani enclose it in a high, almost regular circle, the diameter of which is no more than half an hour's walk. On the sandy, flood-prone confluence of two mountain rivers of inconstant current, which threaten and ravage it with floods twice a year, so confined by its wreath of muntains that its last houses lean against their foothills, ravaged by droughts in summer, by avalanches in winter, by unexpected frosts in spring. “

The landscape is bleak and constricting, the climate harsh. The narrator then proceeds meticulously to draw a parallel between the town’s inhabitants and their environment: “Its closed horizon, its thin soil, its rough climate, the frequent devastation and wars, give even the children the special look of the town, aggressive and crazed.” The landscape itself foreshadows tragic fate of Rifka Papo, a Jewish girl, who attempted to cross the barrier of religion and prejudice. In the mind of Ledenik, her flippant Christian lover, she is closely related, and almost identified, with the image of Višegrad bridge. For him they are the only two things capable of comforting him and cheering him in his Bosnian desolation.

This story has less conspicuous pattern then other Andrić’s tales. After the central drama where a beauty from kasaba fell in love with a former Austrian officer who was only playing with her as Onyegin used to play with Tatyana, the author intimates that another girl now crosses the business district and attracts the attention of the shopkeepers, just as the main character, Rifka, had done before. The message of life going on after elimination of the disturbing factor is here combined with the message of that other type of short story, in which the immutability and eternal course of life emphasized.

Mustafa Magyar

Review

This tale is one of the best known and artistically the most successful Andrić’s short stories.  The story is about "Turkish times" and places of main events are Doboj, Banjaluka and Sarajevo. It is published for the first time in 1923. The protagonist is a soldier who has achieved a hero’s reputation because of his brave exploits in Hungary. His return to his native Bosnia is anticipated eagerly. Like that of Đerzelez, and the people’s disappointment when confronted with the reality is similar. Mustafa is profoundly changed by his experience. The change is manifested outwardly in the fact that he can no longer play his flute, and in his inability to sleep. When he does fall into a fitful sleep he is tormented by dreams of the brutality he has been forced to witness in the course of his life as a soldier. The life he chose and the brutality it entails take complete control of his body and its demands now govern his behavior absolutely.

The story illustrates the clear distinction Andrić makes between the body, whose realm is the night, and the spirit, which can flourish only by day. The tenuous survival of Mustafa’s spirit is expressed through his flute playing, but his experience as a soldier comes to dominate his life entirely. It appears that such uncontrolled and unbalanced physical violence brutalizes the whole personality and leads ultimately to self-destruction. The coherence of Mustafa’s personality is fractured by his experience. This fragmentation, and the restlessness that will take him relentlessly on an increasingly destructive course, are expressed in his outward behavior: "He did not dare stand still. He had to keep moving, because he was equally afraid of sleeplessness as of his dreams, if he fell asleep... He could no longer endure it, but saddled his horse and left the village, in the dark, and silently as a criminal."

To the extent that Mustafa does not understand his actions and cannot control them, he can be included among the "bewildered". A mark of his incomprehension in the face of his experience is his repetition of a formula: "The world is full of swine." That is Mustafa’s formula to register his essential experience of the world.

In the Guest-House

Review

In this story published in 1923 the central hero is the monk Brother Marko, the protagonist of other three tales. The story “In the Guest House” describes his position in the monastery. He is a peasant of limited intellect, given to expressive language quite inappropriate to his calling. He is profoundly confused by the complexities of the vocation thrust upon him by his relatives. He does, however, find himself a niche in the life of the monastery that suits his temperament. He is given charge of overseeing work on the monastery lands, of the animals and wines, and of attending to the needs of the travelers who stay in the monastery guest- house.

Although he is confused by the dogma of his religion, Marko finds that he is sometimes granted moments when he feels in perfect communion with his God. These moments occur most frequently when he is working on the land, digging or planting out cabbages. Marko’s faith is subjected to a severe test when a Turkish visitor is brought into the guest-house fatally ill. His companions leave him in Marko’s care, ostensibly to seek help, but they do not return. As he tends the sick man, Marko is overcome by a desire to save the soul of the dying infidel. His eagerness gives him a new eloquence and he surprises himself with the fluency with which he half remembers phrases this onslaught silently, but when at last he is about to die and incapable of speech Marko brings a crucifix for him to kiss. Summoning his last strength, the Turk spits at it. Marko is appalled he seizes the cross and rushes out into the summer night, his head throbbing with fury.  But the monk has the image of a Christian God willing to accept all sinners, whatever this professed religion.

The Bridge on the Žepa

Review

"The Bridge on the Žepa", published in 1925, is one of the stories richest in ideas which recur elsewhere in Andrić’s work. It provides a preliminary sketch for "The Bridge on the Drina", in a concentrated form. A Bosnian-born Grand Vizier in Constantinopole whose experience is similar to that of the great Mehmed Pasha, builder of the bridge on the Drina – he was taken, like Mehmed, from his native village at the age of nine – wishes to endow his native village with a building that will be enduring use. He is told of the regular destruction of the wooden bridges built over Žepa and resolves to have a stone bridge built. The bulk of the story consists of the description of the dedication of the master-builder, planning and building the bridge. Having made his initial plans and dispatched them to Constantinople, he builds himself a cabin and settles there, buying simple foods from the neighboring peasants and preparing them himself, spending the whole day investigating the river and its currents, examining the stone he intends to use, carving and sketching. When work begins, it is at first interrupted by a sudden storm that fills the river and sweeps away the preliminary structure. As in the "The Bridge on the Drina", the villagers interpret this as the will of the river, rejecting all human innovation. But the building starts again, the work stopping with the onset of winter when the master-builder remains in his hut, scarcely emerging, poring in solitude over his plans and calculations. Eventually, halfway through the following summer, the building is completed and the bridge emerges at last from the scaffolding.

The portrait given here of the master-builder suggests a devotion to an ideal conventionally associated with religious fervour. This gives his work a mysterious, almost supenatural quality. He works with single-minded, self-denying dedication to create something which will transcend the vagaries of the natural world and the ravages of a human time-scale. The ideas and the creative genius of the master-builder will long outlive him in his work.

In addition to the main theme – that the bridge emboides a complete statement requiring no further comment – there is another important idea. The Vizierćs initial desire to build something enduring in his native village is promped by his experience of imprisoment following a political upheavel in Constantinopole. The winter months he spent in prison brought a new thoughtfulness, a new awareness of the marrow dividing line between life and death, and a new gratitude for being alive and liberty. In prison, he remembered his native land and thought of the villagersć houses where his glory was frequently spoken of, without any realization of the price of that glory or other side of success. His decision to build the bridge was an expression of this new perspective.

The end of the story can be seen as a metaliterary frame as the narrator-writer tells how and when he decided to write the story: "This happened one evening when he was returning from the mountains and, feeling weary, had sat of summer when the days were scorching but the nights had a nip to them. As he leaned against the stonework, he noticed cool breeze was blowing in off the Drina pleasant and somehow unexpected was the touch of that warm hewn stone. There was an instant rapport between them. He then decided to write its story."

The Pasha's Concubine

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“The Pasha’s Concubine” (1926) is the story of a young girl who catches the eye of a Turkish army officer and is summoned to his house. She appeals to him because of her extreme youth – she is not quite sixteen and the reason he gives for finding this stage attractive establishes one of the themes of the story: “This is the right moment in her life. She was separated from her family, frightened, alone, dependent entirely on him. From time to time she seemed to him like a little animal, which, driven against a cliff, stared at him wide-eyed aand trembling.” The woman’s vulnerability acts as a provocation, a magnet drawing the stronger element by logic of its own.  In the story the concubine herself are woven two further tales of victimization of woman, so that together they form a complete statement of the plight of woman as an innocent victim. The theme of the pursuit of a wild animal is developed in the subsidiary account of the rape of a ten-year-old, lured out of town by two youths with a promise of sugar. And in the household where Mara ends her days one of the women has a violent husband who has beaten her regularly since their wedding night.

The story of Mara the concubine is developed, as is that of Mustafa Magyar, in such a way as to make them not only vivid individuals in specific circumstances, but also in a way archetypal.

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translated by Joseph Hitrec, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1969

(...)

In the forenoon of the second day, as he was returning from the drill field, the Pasha and his escort found themselves in the bazaar. They rode cautiously over the thawing ice. It was a market day, and in front of the Garić Bakery their way was blocked by some peasants' horses laden with wood. While the flustered farmers began to hop and skip around the stubborn horses, the Pasha cast a glance into the bakery. Next to the closed brick oven stood the old baker Ali, stoop-shouldered, with rheumy, wizened eyes out of which tears kept oozing on his great white mustache. At the wide-open shopwindow, among the bread loaves and pans of meat and pies, was his daughter Mara. On her knees and propped on the counter with one arm, she had stretched the other for a platter on a shelf underneath. When she heard the shouts of the soldiers and the stamping of the peasants' horses, she lifted her head, and the Pasha, seeing her wrapped like this around the counter, fell in love with her round, childish face and her merry eyes.

When he rode that way again in the afternoon, the bakery was deserted, the window half-shuttered, and on the sill was a purring cat with signed white hair.

He gave orders that the girl be found and brought to him. The noncommissioned officers and town constables ran eagerly to carry them out. He stayed over till noon of the third day, when they reported that the matter could be arranged. The girl had no one except her father. Her mother had been well-known Jelka, named Hafizadić after the old Mustaybey Hafizadić, who had kept her for several years and then married her off to this Garić, a quiet and simple-minded young man, to whom he had also given money to open the bakery.

The Pasha left some money and entrusted the matter to his old acquaintance Teskeredžić. And toward the end of March, on another market day, they brought the girl to him at Sarajevo.

The Pasha had not been wring in his judgment. She was the kind of woman he had always sought and particularly esteemed, the only kind that still attracted him. She was not quite sixteen. She had big eyes of a dovelike shade and muted porcelain luster, which moved languidly. Her hair was quite fair, heavy, and thick, such as was seldom seen on women in this region. Both her face and her arms were covered with a fine, light down that was noticeable only in sunlight. What was unusual about her was that even those parts of her skin which were not exposed to the sun and air, were not uniformly white and dun, as is usual with blonde women, but her whole body glowed with a bright, burnished hue that changed only in the shadowy hollows or with a sudden and irregular onrush of blood, when it turned even richer. Her hands were perfectly childlike, short and pink.

The Pasha was buoyed up. In the first few days he was occupied only with her. He also found it pleasant to think that now too, as once before, he could tell by an outstretched hand the kind of woman her owner was, and her true worth. Had he brought her in earlier, it would have been no good; while three to  four months later, it seemed to him, the bloom would have been over. This was exactly the right time. She was cut off from her own kin, frightened and isolated, dependent only on him. At times she appeared to him like a young animal which, driven to the edge of a precipice, quivers in her whole body, her pupils contracting. This fanned the passion of his love and, in the contradictory ways of the male heart, evoked in him the impulse to be generous, to make her happy, to protect her.

She lived not far from the Pasha's residence, in a separate cottage which he had rented and furnished. Except for her visits to the Pasha, she went nowhere and received no visitors, save for Hamša the Gypsy, who kept house for her, and baba Anuša from Bistrik, who was distantly related to her and who lived with her two grandchildren in great poverty. She spent all her days in two poorly lighted rooms, doing those sundry little chores that are so inconspicuous and yet so easily fill a woman's day. At dusk the Pasha's equerry would come for her, and she would wrap and veil herself up to her eyes and then, with a bowed head, accompany him to the Residence.

In the beginning, after they had just brought her from Travnik, she felt utterly lost. Physical pain took complete hold of her; and it was only when this pain, after the first few nights, began to fade that there arose in her mind, like a torment, a vague yet dark and nagging thought of sin and shame. She was afraid of the Pasha, she loathed that Jewess of his, Sarah, and shied away from daylight and from people. She could not sleep, yet even in her dreams felt herself damned.

Nevertheless, she gradually came to terms with Sarah, who was taciturn and good and who did her work and helped in everything with a kind of melancholy friendliness. Getting accustomed to the Pasha and his caresses was harder; even after the initial pain and fear had faded, she accepted those numbly, in childlike bewilderment. But after a while she began to get used to them. She grew especially fond of the smell of his skin. It was seldom that she could look into those unusually steady eyes without a certain timidity, or into that face with its dreadful patch of blight on the left cheek and its dark drooping mustache that was always a little damp and quivered when he spoke like tufted grass in a dark forest pond. But the waftings that his body sent out attracted her more and more, they thrilled and delighted her; and she inhaled them for hours with her eyes closed, her head resting on his chest or in the palm of his hand.

The anguish came back to haunt her only at night when, as it often happened, he sent her to sleep alone. She would then wake up several times with a clear realization-such as can only come in the dark-of what and who she was now, and with a mouth choked with sobs she would press her face between the quilt and the pillows and stammer:

"Turk...!"

In the darkness, the racking thought would assume the shape of eternal punishment and hellish torture, not of earthly shame and ruin as in the daytime. But the next evening she would again face the Pasha with blushing cheeks and a wordless smile that seemed to be made entirely of glistening white teeth and sparkling eyes.

So it went every evening. He would come from an army exercise, or from a ride, flushed and a little sweaty, and she would wait for him with her hands crossed on her breast. he would then undress; Sarah would bring cold water, and a maid would take away his boots. After he had washed and cooled off, he would ask them to open the door and all windows that commanded a view of Sarajevo and the Trebević mountain. he would sit like this in the cool draft until Sarah brought a bottle of mastika and a tray of olives and thin strips of bread. alter the equerry Salih would come in with the nargileh on which the lighted tobacco heap would smolder a dark red, while in its crystal bottle, on the limped surface of water, there would float two crimson cherries. Then Sarah and the equerry would vanish, and from an adjoining room Mara would return, prepared, and sit on his lap. Between the two of them, this was called "sitting in the box".

(...)

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Anika's Times

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Among the stories published between the wars there are several characters who dominate the tales in which they appear and seem similarly to stand for a whole category of human experience. An example is the heroine of the of the story “Anika's Times“(1931). Anika is a woman who wreaks havoc in Višegrad through the unpredictable distribution of her favours. The impact she made is still spoken of when the story opens, several generations later. Anika is a self-willed creature whose defiance of convention – flouted initially out of pique with a particular young man – predictably brings her no happiness to the extent that she welcomes the prospect of the inevitable retribution her as a relief for herself and others: “It would be an act of charity of someone would kill me”, she repeats several times before her death. In this way Anika herself is not entirely in control of her destiny, but is the vehicle of an overwhelming power over men.

The story of Anika is given an additional dimension in the form of an explanatory introduction the exact meaning of which is perhaps not immediately clear, but emerges from the account of “Anika’s Times”. This introduction describes the growing schizophrenia of the parish priest of a village outside Višegrad and his obsessive, furtive watching of women. As long as the villagers speak of him they tend to be reminded also of Anika. There is only a tenuous connection between her and father Vujadin, so that the association of the two stories in the villagers’ minds seems to suggest a more profound link. Vujadin’s madness is not directly attributable to his experience of women; he has become cut off from his fellow-men by a variety of factors. But as he steadily loses touch with society, women seem to loom ever larger in his consciousness. In this aspect of his madness that seems to disturb the villagers and urge them to give it form in their recollection of the legend of Anika.

Within the framework of the story “Anika's Times“, this introduction appears as a kind of meditation on man's perennial need to control and account for his powerful response to woman, the need which led to the creation of the legend of Adam and Eve.

{tab Fragment}

(...)

St. Georges feast day that year was remembered in town as the day on which Anika "announced herself". By the time of the feast of St. Elias, only two months later, her banner was completely unfurled. Anika opened her home to men. She hired two women, village tramps, whose names were Yelenka and Saveta, as her companions. It was in this manner that the reign of Anika Krnoyelats began - a reign of a year and a half which Anika devoted herself to evil and disaster in much the same way that other people might occupy themselves with children, bread, their homes. She ignited men, set them afire, not only in the kasaba, but in the whole district of Vishegrad. Many details have been forgotten, and many a misfortune was never revealed, but it was not until Anika's times that the people of Vishegrad discovered what powers an evil woman possesses.

Little by little the yard in front of Anika's house came to resemble a camping site. No one could keep track of the many who came at night; young and old, bachelors and married men, neighbors from nearby Dobrun and travelers from distant Focha. And there were others who, bereft of shame or reason, came in full daylight and sat in the yard or, if allowed, in the house, or simply wandered about with their hands in their pockets, glancing from time to time up at Anika's window.

One of the most desperate and ardent of Anika's visitors was a certain Tane Kuyunjiya, a thin man with very wide eyes on a worn, tired face. He would sit on a crate behind the kitchen door, saying nothing, waiting patiently for Anika, looking up only when Yelenka and Saveta entered the kitchen. Going past him as though he did not exist, Yelenka and Saveta received their guests and proceeded with them to their rooms. When they threw him out of the kitchen, he would seat himself somewhere in the yard, bashfully smiling at Yelenka as she chased him out.

"Ah, let me be, bona. What am I doing to you?"

He would wait in the yard for hours, with a mournful expression, as though he found it hard to sit there for so long. Occasionally he would rise and leave without a word, only to come again the next day. At home he was scolded by his wife, Kosara, a robust woman of peasant stock with eyebrows that ran together.

"Have you been sitting in the bitches' yard again, you ugly duckling? You should stayed there!

"Eh, I should have stayed there." he repeated sadly, and his thoughts went back to the yard he had just left.

This indifference drove Kosara insane and she started a dreadful row, but Tane only waved his hand, as though awakened from a dream.

Some of Anika's company were quite mad, like Nazif, a big and retarded youth from the house of a beg. He was a quiet fool, deaf and dumb. He would pass under Anika's window and call to her in his unintelligible language at least twice a day. He offered her a handful of sugar, and she jested with him about it.

"That isn't enough, Nazif, not enough," Anika called from above, smiling. Somehow or other the idiot understood what she had said, ran home, stole some money from his brothers, bought two half-pecks of sugar and returned to the window. Grinning with happiness, he offered her his fortune in sugar. Anika roared with laughter and indicated to him, through signs, that he had still brought enough, and he left mumbling sadly.

From that day on he came every morning, carrying a basket filled with sugar, as well as additional amounts under his wide sash and in his pockets. Anika soon grew bored with the joke. The madman's persistence angered her, and she sent Saveta and Yelenka to chase him away. He defended himself and then left muttering incoherently, only to appear bright and early the following day with even more sugar. They chased him away again. All day long he carried the sugar around the town, twittering and murmuring. Children followed him, teased him, and stole sugar from the basket which he clutched so passionately.

There were, of course, men who, lacking the courage to come in the daytime, waited for night to make their regular appearance, although many of them had no prospects of even entering Anika's house. They would simply sit there, on the trough by the fountain, waiting and smoking all night long. A man could arrive at night unseen by anyone; and he could leave in the same way. On the following morning a small heap of wood shavings and cigarette butts would appear where he had been sitting. He must have been an unhappy young man, God only knew which one; Anika certainly did not know him, and he knew her only by sight. For they were not all there just to see Anika. Some came simply because they were drawn to evil things, other because they had been from birth lost and tormented. Everything that was questionable, and contrary to God's will, assembled around that house and in that yard. The circle of men around Anika's house was rapidly expanding, and in time embraced not only the weak and the wicked, but the healthy and the wise too.

In the end, there were but few young men in the kasaba who had not been to Anika or who had not tried to approach her. First, they went to her stealthily, at night, obliquely and individually. They talked of her as something shameful and horrible, but at the same time distant and almost beyond belief. But the more they talked and gossiped about her, the more comprehensible her evil seemed. At first they pointed a stern finger at those who went there, but in the end it was those who did not go to Anika's who attracted scorn. Since only a small group of men managed to reach Anika at first try, and the rest had to content themselves with Yelenka and Saveta, envy, male pride, and vanity began taking their toll. Those who had been rejected came again, hoping to make up for the double humiliation of having gone and been rejected all in one night; and those who had been received once could no longer stop themselves, but as if under a spell went back again and again.

(...)

 

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Thirst

Fragment

translated by Joseph Hitrec, George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1969

(...)

For months past there had been a lot of talk in Sokolac about this man Lazar. She had heard awful tales of his cruelty, how he tortured in the most brutal ways the peasants who wouldn't yield to him, and shot gendarmes from ambush, stripped their bodies to the skin, and left them naked on the road. And now she was witnessing how the gendarmes repaid him in kind. Could this possibly go on forever? It seemed to her that they were all rushing toward some kind of abyss and that they would all perish together in a night just like this, destined never to see the light of dawn, in blood, in thirst, among unspeakable horrors.

She thought now and then of waking her husband and begging him to dispel, with a word or a smile, all of this horror as though it were a hideous dream. But she could not bring herself to move nor to arouse her husband, and remained stock-still on the edge of the bed almost as if the body beside her were that of a dead man, and listened to the voice in the cellar, alone with her terror and her questions. She even thought of saying the prayers of another, forgotten and vanished life, and they gave her no clue or comfort. As if making peace with her own death, she resigned herself to the thought that the wailing man would go on wailing and imploring forever, and the man sleeping and breathing beside her would thus sleep and remain still forever.

The night kept pressing in from all sides, growing thicker and more ominous. This was no longer an ordinary night, one of the countless ones in the string of days and nights, but a long drawn-out and perpetual desert of gloom in which the last man alive was moaning and crying for help, begging hopelessly and in vain for a drop of water. Yet in the whole of God's wide world with its waters, rains and dew there was not a single hand to offer it. All the waters had run dry, all mankind pined away. Only the frail rush-light of her consciousness still flickered, like a solitary witness to it all.

At last came the dawn. Not daring to trust her own eyes, the woman watched the slow paling of the wall, at the same spot where it always paled at daybreak, and saw how the morning twilight, first pearly and then pink, spread through the room bringing shape and life to all the objects in it.

If she strained hard she could still make out the bandit's voice, but from a great distance as it were. The cursing and oaths had stopped. There was only an occasional dull "A-a-ah!" And she inferred that rather than actually heard it.

Although the daylight was growing brighter, the woman had no strength to move. Doubled and rigid all over, with her chin cupped in her hands, she was crouching on the edge of the bed and never even noticed that her husband had woken up.

He opened his rested eyes and his gaze fell on his wife's curved back and on the milky white nape on her neck. At that moment, when the haze of sleep first cleared from his eyes a sense of joyful reality flooded back into him, washing over him like a warm, luxuriant wave. He wanted to call his wife, to sing out her name, but changed his mind. Smiling, he raised himself a little, making no sound, then propping himself on his left elbow reached out with his free right hand, and without a word, suddenly took her shoulders, pulled her over, and brought her down under him.

The woman struggled briefly and in vain. The unexpected and irresistible embrace was dreadful to her. It seemed blasphemous and unthinkable that she should betray so quickly and easily, and without any explanation, the world of night in which up to that moment she had existed and suffered alone with her anguish. She wanted to hold him back and convince him that it was not possible, that there were grave and painful things which she had to tell him first and over which one could not pass so lightly into everyday life. Bitter words rose to her tongue, but she could not speak a single one. Her husband never even noticed this sign of her resistance, this fragmentary sound that never hardened into a word. She would have pushed him away, but her movements were not nearly as strong as her bitterness, or as swift as her thoughts. The very heat of that awakened and vigorous body crushed her like a great weight. The bones and muscles of her young body gave way like an obedient machine. her mouth was sealed by his lips. She felt him on her like a huge rock to which she was lashed, and together with which she was plunging downward, irresistibly and fast.

Losing all recollection not only of last night but of all her life, she sank into the deaf and twilit sea of familiar and ever-new pleasure. Above her floated the last traces of her nighttime thoughts and resolutions and all human compassion, dissolving into air one after another like watery bubbles over drowning person.

The white, gaily draped room quickly filled with the vivid light of day.

Conversation with Goya

Conversation with GoyaThe work which most obviously spans the categories of fact and fiction, history and legend is the “Conversation with Goya” (1935). Here, the author’s identification with his subject is complete. The ideas attributed to Goya are in fact Andrić's own reflections on the nature of art, provoked by an affinity with the painter's work. Had Andrić been interrogated as Ćamil was, he would have had to reply: "I am he".

The form of this piece, which has been used by other modern writers, brings it closer to a work of art than an essay. Goya's physical appearence is described briefly with particular attention to his hands, the bridge between the painter's physical existence and the world of his imagination. The "conversation", like so many of Andrić's works, is set in a frame with two dimension: the timelessness of a small French café, and the reference to a circus being set up outside it. The fact that the café is near Bordeaux rather than in Spain suggests the insignifiance of man-made geographical divisions.

The main idea presented in the essay is that the situation of the artist described  as ambiguous and often painful. He is resented as suspect, concealed behind a number of masks. The artist's destiny "insincerity and contradiction, uncertanity and a constant vain endeavour to bring together things which cannot be joined".

Death in Sinan's Tekke

Review

This story, written in 1936, can be seen as a further elaboration of the theme of man's powerful, irrational reponse to woman. It is told in a gently ironic tone and offers an example of Andrić’s subtle humor. It is the tale of a wise old dervish, widely respected and admired. As he lies dying in the monastery, people come from miles around to hear his last words of wisdom. Finally the time comes for him to part from the world and he stops speaking in a moment of silent meditation. Those with him watch reverently as the great man evidently offers up his soul to God, and then ceases to be without a further word. What they cannot know is that Alidede, in his final moments, is preoccupied not by a serene prayer but by two memories, the only two incidents from his long life that come to him at that moment of exceptional significance. Each incident involves a disturbing experience with a woman. The first is his discovery, as a child, of the body of a drowned woman. He was so upset that he found himself unable ever to speak of it. The second is his hearing, as a young monk, the running footsteps of a young woman beat on the monastery gate – her only hope of escape – but Alidede, who witnessed the scene from his cell window, could not bring himself to go down and open the gate which would have brought him into direct contact with her. His last, unspoken words do indeed take the form of a prayer, but one that is very different in content from what those watching imagine.

It may be seen that there is a certain pattern in the stories discussed so far. Alidede’s insight into the fundamental forces of life is made possible by the single-minded devotional life he leads. His experience is very limited and his mind uncluttered: he is able to see the world more clearly than others who may be too involved in their own complex affairs.

The Torso

 

The hounting story, published in 1936, portraes a man who thrives in a violent situation. Its structure is one to which Andrić was to return in "Devil’s Yard". There is an outer frame of omniscient narration which describes the monk Brother Petar in his cell, recouting a story told to him by a servant in Asia Minor, where Peter was exiled for some years. The focal point is the figure Brother Petar sees framed in the window of the clock tower of a huge fortified mansion where he has been summoned to mend the clock. It is the figure of the man who once ruled Syria as ruthless tyrant, having been sent there to quell a rebellion. Eventually, after years of systematic brutality, a terrible revenge is wrought on him, and he is left – his limbs crushed and the features burned from his face – his limbs crushed and the features burned from his face – a grotesque torso, who is carried by his servants out into the garden to sit in the sun. His obvious harmlessness is emphasized before Petar realizes what he is seeing: "Something like a child, like an old woman was sitting there..."

This story is particularly concetrated, with each frame contributing a dimension to the meaning. Peter is a skilled mechanic who is particularly interested in clocks, of which he has a large collection in his cell. He is therefore seen to be on the side of time, in harmony with it and not trying to resist its passing. The servant who tells the story of Čelebi-Hafiz represents a pattern of survival regardless of the fluctuations of the fortunes of his masters. By contrast with these two passive vehicles of his story, Čelebi-Hafiz himself offers an extreme example of a pattern of rise and fall, power and ruin, abrupt change, interpreted by the people either as Divine Retribution of the workings of an Oriental Fate.

There is no real attempt to explain the tyrant’s fall, simply recognition that time and fortune inevitably brought change. The sevant introduces his account of the revenge of the tyrant’s prisoners with the words: "there is a cure for every ill, and that is that at every moment of a man's life there is a possibility that he will make a mistake, just one slight slip, but that is enough to cause his death and his absolute ruin." In addition, the instrument of the tyrant's downfall is a woman; the only creature for whom he ever felt real compassion or affection. But none of these possible human rationalizations is developed; Čelebi-Hafiz simply falls from power, just as cities and whole civilizations have flourished and perished throughout time.

 

Letter from the Year 1920

Review

A reflection on the nature of intercultural relations in Bosnia is given in a piece published in 1946, under the “Letter from the Year 1920”. Throughout his work Andrić uses Bosnia, with its potential for intercultural conflict, as an image of the human world where the basic conditions of existence can be seen in an extreme, raw form. His frequent reference to the widespread and deep-seated hatred which he describes as characterizing the atmosphere of Bosnian life should be seen in these terms. Whether or not the story was written, or at least drafted, earlier, it is certainly no coincidence that it was published when it was, when the strife which Andrić had witnessed in the First World War was exaggerated systematically in the circumstances of open anti-Semitism and civil war.

This story is similar in flavour and manner to several published after the Second World War, in which the first-person narrator examines incidents from his own childhood and youth, usually expanding them into the more general statements. The degree to which these sketches and stories are actually autobiographical is in many cases uncertain, but together they add up to something approaching an account of the development of the writer’s imaginative life. In this story the references to the response of the narrator to the world of books are familiar. And it is likely that the character of Marks Levenfeld is based on someone known to Andrić as a young man. The substance of the piece, and letter itself, however, need have existed only in Andrić’s imagination, stimulated by his understanding of Bosnia and his knowledge of the repercussions there of both world wars. It is a lengthy reflection of the nature of hatred, seen as an organic force, the “correlative” of fear. In the context of Andrić’s experience of war the irrational fear characterizing human existence can be seen to have been channeled in a particular direction.

Mistreatment

For Andrić an essential feature of human relationships remains attack and defense, and he examines this now in his depiction of family life, where one partner in the marriage is seen as the aggressor. One situation is developed in several stories as a symbol of such covert aggression. “Mistreatment” (1946) is a typical instance.

This story opens with a statement of general hostility towards Anica, the wife in one of these ostensibly unexceptionable marriages, and criticism of her having left her husband: “No one could understand why Anica, the wife of Andrija Zereković, one day left her home and husband. There was no obvious reason or reasonable justification for such an action”.

This story offers an example of the balance between individual experience and generalization that typifies Andrić’s technique of characterization. The generalization is deliberately intensified in this story to heighten the contrast between the familiarity of the pattern, the expectations of outsiders and the reality of the marriage itself.

The nature of the harassment to which Anica is exposed is then described. The first hints lie in the way her husband looks on her arrival in his household as a new acquisition, the crowning touch to a perfectly successful life. He likes to refer to “his wife” as often as possible in conversation with others, implying that he is more concentrated with the sound of the world as a boost to his public image than with the woman herself.

The striking common feature of all the stories portraying these various kinds of violence is that its vehicle is speech. It is through words that Andrija persecutes his wife; another character compensates for the humiliation of his working life as a civil servant. A supervisor on a state farm tyrannizes an employee through words which alternate with unpredictable periods of silence.

The Story of the Vizier’s Elephant

Review

The introduction to this story published in 1947, makes its figurative quality explicit in a general statement about the particular nature of Bosnian stories. It is woven through with references to the telling of tales and blatant lies, the discrepancy between an event and its later elaboration, the need to invent what cannot be known. One of the subsidiary variations of the main theme is quite incidental, but carries wide implications.

The main line of this story is, then, the tale of a particularly ruthless vizier whose arrival in Travnik is preceded by terrible accounts of his cruelty, but who is himself never seen in the town at all. This fact simply increases the townspeople’s anxiety, so that when the Vizier acquires an elephant, their resentment of the innocent creature is the more intense. The Vizier’s young elephant seems larger than he really is because he reflects the people’s fear of the Vizier himself. There are several elements of importance in the development of the story such as the obvious innocence of the animal, which causes havoc in the narrow streets of Travnik because of its size and youthful exuberance, its need of play and exercise.

The central point of the story is made in a manner typical for Andrić. The narrative focuses on one character, Aljo, who sits on a hillside above the town, and from this new perspective is able clearly to see the nature of the impasse in which he had his fellow-citizens are trapped. So, he decided to visit Vizier in order to tell him that “it was enough with the elephant”. But on the way to the Vizier’s konak “he loses so much of himself, fear consumes him to such an extent that his life is worth nothing”.  He goes back down the hill to become once more the old Aljo, who loves a good joke. In its limited way, with the scope for action at its disposal, Aljo’s spirit triumphs. He has shown more courage than his fellow-citizens in his willingness to complain to the Vizier about the elephant and, when this mission proves impossible, after his initial reaction his old zest for life returns.

The story is a particularly apt illustration of its introductory remarks. The wry humor with which it treats the surface content, the elephant and the townspeople’s inept reactions, cannot relieve the underlying account of the price of life under occupation which is vividly evokes.

The House on Its Own

Review

A posthumously published collection of eleven stories written between 1972 and 1974, represents Andrić’s last major creative effort in short fiction. It clearly demonstrates that his prodigious talent was not exhausted in the last years of his life, as some critics suspected. On the one hand “The House on Its Own” is a deeply retrospective work, a rich résumé of Andri ć’s most characteristic and pervasive themes, motifs and character types. Yet it is an innovative work as well, fundamentally different in composition from all of his other prose. This is Andrić’s first attempt to create a “closed” cycle of interconnected stories.

Andrić links the stories explicitly through the narrator-writer whose presence weaves through the entire cycle. In the introduction the writer, allegedly Andrić himself, appears in the first person to define the compositional framework of the collection. He identifies the stories as recollections associated with an eclectic house in Bosnia. The cycle is constructed as a series of ghostly visitations by tormented souls who intrude upon the writer in this setting in order to tell their stories. These alienated beings are familiar figures from Andrić’s literary landscape: ruthless rulers, libertines, social outcasts, dreamers and recluses. Whether the result of a single traumatic experience, hereditary degeneracy, social decay or all-consuming passion, physical and spiritual suffering permeates the universe of Andrić’s fiction? But in the midst of this seemingly hopeless existence, even in pain and degradation, there are moments of ecstasy and release. Andrić’s message in “The House on Its Own” is not pessimistic. It is disquieting and deeply moving yet always life-affirming. Although tormented in life, in death the ghostly visitors receive their due through the cathartic process of storytelling.

“The House on Its Own” is clearly one of Andrić’s most complex and innovative works. It operates in two frames of reference, fictional and metaliterary. For the first time Andrić is baring the artifice of writing fiction and exploring the art of storytelling. These apparitions from the past are not “real” ghosts, but ghosts of imaginary characters explicitly identified as the writer’s own creations. “The House on Its Own” is thus both a final successful endeavor in the genre of the short story as well as a very personal, even autobiographical study of the artist’s craft, a testament to his life and art.

Zeko

Only three Andrić’s stories deal directly and exclusively with the War itself, and of these one is in fact a sketch for a passage from the longest of three, “Zeko”, published in 1948. Describing the experience that led the inadequate Zeko, dominated by an aggressive wife and collaborator son, to become involved in illegal activities in the Resistance in occupied Belgrade, it has something of the uneven quality of the “The Woman from Sarajevo”. In the novel the protagonist becomes almost a caricature among characters whose treatment is realistic. In “Zeko”, the situation is reserved. The main character’s credibility is undermined initially by the almost grotesque figures of his wife and son, and his later development lacks conviction. Nevertheless, the story contains some vivid passages, particularly those describing life by the Sava River and the bombing Belgrade.

The Titanic Bar

Review

The story is published in 1950, portrays the agonized fear of the Jewish owner of a little bar in Sarajevo on the one hand and the development of the brutal inadequate personality of a young Fascist, or “Ustasha”, on the other. The material is superficially as directly a product of the specific circumstances of the Second World War.

“The Titanic Bar” describes the situation in Sarajevo in the early stages of the War before the systematic removal of the Jewish population to work camps or extermination, when individual members of the Ustasha movement took advantage of the times to rob and persecute individual Jews. Some of these “Ustasha” acquired large sums of money or jewellery through blackmail or in return for helping some Jews and their families to leave the country. Andrić describes the dignity, squalid little bar owned by Mento Papo, so small that only half-a-dozen customers can stand in it at one time; and the character of Papo himself, the black sheep of the Sephardic community of Sarajevo, who took up with petty gamblers and drinkers at an early age and is generally regarded as having disgraced the Jews. The portrait of the young man in Ustasha uniform, Stjepan Ković is given as an inadequate, dissatisfied and consequently potentially dangerous personality. He is a man who needs some outward sign of importance: he has to carry something as he walks through the town. Ković suffers from a painful, obsessive desire to be something other than he is, above all to be seen to be important.

This story is a satisfactory coincidence of universal, generalized themes of fear and persecution with the specific circumstances of the Second World War in Bosnia, with both aspects of the whole developed. As in the case of the victims in earlier stories, Papo’s vulnerability acts as a magnet, a provocation to Ković’s aggression, which is turn functions as compensation for his own sense of uneasy dissatisfaction.

The Woman on the Rock

Review

The story is published in 1954. It is one of Andrić's short stories that is far removed from either the Bosnian setting or its thematics and symbolism. This has led more than one critic to remark that Andrić had bid his farewell to Bosnia and was concentrating more successfully on contemporary stories with non-Bosnian setting.

The central character is the forty-eight ex-opera-singer Marta L, beautiful and successful lady. She spends her holiday on the seaside, and lying on the beach, she is thinking about herself. Marta L. is in the zenith of her life, and she has an inkling of the old age approaching. She doesn’t want to admit her fear, so she goes back to her childhood and youth, and revives the days of waking her sexuality. The very thought on the old age fills her with horror; in the hot summer day the ex-beauty can’t stop thinking that the best days of her life passed away, and that the time when she will be the old lady is coming. Marta L. can’t find own peace, except in sunbathing or swimming.  In those moments, when she feels her body, Marta L. is tranquil. The end of the story tells that: “She felt herself as light and big and powerful as the world which itself changes and remains always the same, calm and happy in the lap of the benign, momentary respite.”

Panorama

The temperament of the children through whose eyes have been seen all the stories mentioned so far is striking similar, and its particular predilections are developed in the story “Panorama”, published in 1958, which contains the least equivocal statement of the positive power of the imagination.

The tale describes a source of great excitement in the childhood of the first-person narrator. For about a year during the boy’s schooldays in Sarajevo there was a permanent “Panorama of the world”: a series of still photographs which could be seen enlarged and brilliantly vivid through a series of special binoculars arranged in a circle. The photographs would be rotated at intervals so that each spectator could look at each one in turn.

For the child the world seen through these binoculars – Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Ceylon – became the only reality – “real, glorious, bright life” – and the life of his little Bosnia town seemed “like a bad dream”.

The style of the story conveys its mood of excitement through short sentences and exclamations. The child’s reaction are evoked by his constantly relating what he sees to his own childish experience.

Summer in the South

Review

“Summer in the South”(1959) is, in fact, an elaboration of a recurrent idea of Andrić’s found in Unrest and “Signs by the Roadside. Sometimes by the sea, which he loved, Andrić found himself thinking of the perfect salvation of simply dissolving into its salty, iodine evaporation.

The story describes a staid and apparently very ordinary Austrian teacher on holiday on the Southern Adriatic coast. The sensation of renewal and refreshment from the sea, sun and salt air is described in physical terms: “Refreshed by swimming, the sun and the sea-water, he felt as though he were dressed in light, festive, flower-white and scented clothes, and that he was himself blossoming and growing together with them and with everything around him.” Increasingly, the teacher becomes susceptible to tricks of the air, and the smoke of the cigarette that seems intoxicating in these surroundings: he begins to feel himself part of the heady atmosphere itself. The teacher disappears without trace, mystifying not only his wife and the local police but the whole population of the little town, who find the uncertainty surrounding the whole curious affair disconcerting and uncomfortable.

Jelena, the Woman of My Dream

Review

The story (1962) belongs to the inter-war period. It is the expression of an abstract idea in concrete terms, suggesting the force with which quite abstract notions and vague impressions can impose themselves on the imagination, demanding to be recognized as no less real than “reality”.

This is the story about disappearing woman – a story which in other contexts has seemed puzzling, if not downright insubstantial, but which is greatly improved by being viewed as an allegory of the life of art. Jelena like Eurydice is a supremely beautiful woman, but the narrator does not live for her illusory visits because he desires her, but because life itself is transformed when she arrives. Life is infinitely rich and significant in her presence, and he is happy with no cause; without her, he despairs, in a wasteland of insignificance. She is really all the artist’s nighttime visions contained in a single figure, and she is gloriously beautiful than anything that could actually exist. The narrator concedes from the start that she is only an illusion, but this is a fact he has recovered from ‘like an illness you only catch once in a lifetime’ and his whole imaginative efforts is to glimpse the illusion as often as possible – to win his Eurydice again and again over the threshold between dreams and realities. Orpheus must continually expect her, or she will never come. She is always and only the product of the artist’s lyre. As such she is immortal, for art is immortal; but if he views her as daylight reality she slips back over the threshold, and becomes part of that world of transience where Hades has entire dominion.